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Richard Nixon

Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous) 1913- 1994

Richard Nixon served as US Vice President, from 1953-1959, and as US President from 1969-1974. Nixon oversaw the gradual decline and departure of US forces from South Vietnam and opened relations with China. He resigned from the presidency following the Watergate scandal.


Richard Nixon

Born on January 9, 1913, in Yorba Linda, California, into a lower-middle-class Quaker family, Richard Nixon had a difficult childhood. In school he was an ambitious student, but not one who excelled. Upon graduation, he entered Whittier College. Nixon graduated second in his class and won a scholarship to Duke University law school, where he graduated third in his class. He returned to California and took a job at a law firm in Whittier. Nixon served in the Navy during World War II.

After the war, Nixon ran successfully for Congress. He quickly distinguished himself as one of Congress' most fervent anti-communists, leading the charge against accused spy Alger Hiss. In 1950, Nixon was elected to the Senate. He was picked as a running mate in 1952 by Republican presidential candidate Dwight Eisenhower. As vice president, he took an active interest in national security affairs.

In 1960, Nixon waged a vigorous campaign for the presidency, losing to Democrat John F. Kennedy. Perhaps more bitter was his defeat in the 1962 California gubernatorial campaign. He declared his withdrawal from politics, but instead built a strong national political base which, in 1968, enabled him to win the White House.

In domestic politics, Nixon was a pragmatic president who continued many of his Democratic predecessors' programs. In foreign policy, he sought "peace with honor" in the Vietnam War, in the end achieving neither. But under his leadership, the war in Vietnam did come to a halt. Nixon also sought to improve the U.S. strategic position in the Cold War. He forged a new, more cooperative relationship with the Soviet Union and achieved a diplomatic revolution through his normalization of U.S. relations with China. However, Nixon's secret methods not only exposed him to fierce criticism at home, but ultimately also undermined some of the achievements themselves. Nixon's ongoing obsession with political enemies resulted in the Watergate scandal, and in August 1974 Nixon became the first U.S. president to resign.

Nixon wrote a number of books on international affairs and, toward the end of his life, was somewhat rehabilitated as a foreign policy expert. Nixon died in Saddle Creek, New Jersey, on April 22, 1994, at age 81.

Popular Documents

February 27, 1972

Joint Communique between the United States and China

The United States and China pledge to improve relations with one another in the famous "Shanghai Communique."

February 21, 1972

Memorandum of Conversation between Chairman Mao Zedong and President Richard Nixon

Mao Zedong and Richard Nixon focus on "philosophic problems" in relations between China and the United States during their first meeting.

December 18, 1970

Record of Conversation from [Chairman Mao Zedong’s] Meeting with [Edgar] Snow

Mao Zedong talks to American journalist, Edgar Snow, about the Cultural Revolution and his thoughts about the Nixon administration. Mao expressed discontent towards China's pace of development compared to the United States. Mao emphasized the secretive nature on part of Nixon in setting up talks between the US and China. Mao and Edgar also discussed the US's intentions in the Asia-Pacific region. Mao consistently claims that he likes Nixon because Nixon's "reactionary" approach to foreign policy is an advantage to China. Mao admits to Edward Snow that the personality cult around Mao Zedong during that Cultural Revolution was necessary to oppose Liu Shaoqi. Mai discusses his increasingly suspicious view towards the Soviet Union.

February 22, 1972

Memorandum of Conversation between Richard Nixon and Zhou Enlai

September 27, 1972

Excerpt of Mao Zedong’s Conversation with Japanese Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka

Mao claims that, as a result of Tanaka's visit to China, "the whole world is trembling in fear." In addition to discussing international politics, Mao and Tanaka also delve into ancient Chinese history and Buddhist philosophy.