Connect with ProQuest
TDIH: President Richard Nixon Resigns
"I shall resign the presidency effective at noon tomorrow."—President Richard M. NixonOn this day in history, August 8, 1974, Nixon gave a solemn address from the Oval Office at the White House that was broadcast live on radio and television. The next day, he would become the first president in American history to resign his office. His departure came about because of his involvement in the Watergate scandal and subsequent cover-up, which began when Republican campaign operatives broke into and illegally wiretapped the Democratic Party headquarters in Washington, D.C. in June of 1972. The Nixon administration denied any involvement, but later that year, when two reporters from The Washington Post discovered a larger conspiracy, public confidence in the president rapidly declined. By the end of July 1974, the House Judiciary Committee had adopted three articles of impeachment against President Nixon--for obstruction of justice, abuse of presidential powers, and contempt of Congress. Nixon resigned rather than be impeached. On August 9, he departed from the White House lawn in a helicopter with his family. Minutes later, Vice President Gerald R. Ford was sworn in as the 38th president of the United States. Ford later issued a proclamation that pardoned Nixon of "all offenses against the United States," a widely unpopular decision at the time. While Nixon is probably most remembered for his involvement in the Watergate scandal and his subsequent resignation, he had a long and distinguished political and public service career. Before becoming president, he served as a lawyer, federal government employee, Navy officer, U.S. Congressman, Senator, and Vice-President. Richard Nixon was born in the small town of Yorba Linda, California in 1913. After attending Whittier (California) College and Duke University Law School, he returned to Whittier to practice law. He later got a job in the Office of Price Administration in Washington, D.C. Nixon enlisted in the Navy following Pearl Harbor, and after World War II ended, he returned to California. In November 1946, he beat a five-time incumbent in California's 12th congressional district to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was reelected in 1948. In 1950, Nixon successfully ran for the United States Senate seat from California against Democratic Rep. Helen Gahagan Douglas. After Nixon garnered national attention for his role in a congressional investigation of Alger Hiss, a former state department official accused of spying for the Soviets, he was tapped by Dwight Eisenhower as the vice-presidential nominee in 1952. He served as vice president from 1953 to 1961 in President Eisenhower's administration. He was the Republican nominee for president in 1960, narrowly losing one of the closest presidential elections to the Democrat, Massachusetts Senator John F. Kennedy. Kennedy earned 49.7% of the popular vote to Nixon's 49.5%--a difference of only about 120,000 votes out of over 68 million cast. After returning home to California in 1962, he was encouraged by Republican leaders to run for governor against the incumbent Democrat Edmund D. "Pat" Brown but was soundly beaten. At a press conference where he conceded defeat at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, he famously told reporters "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference." But this was not to be his last press conference, as he formally announced his second candidacy for president of the United States on February 1, 1968. In a three-way race between Nixon, Democrat Hubert Humphrey and American Independent candidate George Wallace, Nixon won the election by nearly 500,000 votes. He was sworn in as the 37th president of the United States on January 20, 1969. As president, Nixon was a strong advocate for the environment. In a message to Congress on July 9, 1970, he proposed the establishment of the two new agencies—the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He also pushed for the passage of the Clean Air Act and signed it into law on December 31, 1970. During his presidency, he appointed four Supreme Court Justices--Justices Warren Burger, Harry Blackmun, Lewis Powell and William Rehnquist, two of whom would later become Chief Justice. Nixon also initiated and oversaw the peaceful desegregation of southern schools. In 1972, Nixon made history as the first U.S. president to visit Communist China. The historic meeting with Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai of the People’s Republic of China opened the door to relations between two of the world's most powerful countries. Later the same year, he also became the first sitting president to visit the Soviet Union. Nixon met with Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev in Moscow, where they signed the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) agreements, the first agreement during the Cold War that limited the number of nuclear missiles in the two countries' arsenals. Riding the successes of his first term, he won reelection in 1972 in a landslide 520-17 electoral college victory over Democratic Senator George McGovern. Nixon gained almost 18 million more popular votes--the widest margin of any U.S. presidential election. Just 21 months later, he would resign in disgrace. Nixon signed the Paris Peace Accords on January 27, 1973, ending U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Richard Nixon died on April 22, 1994, in a New York City hospital, four days after suffering a stroke at his home in Park Ridge, New Jersey. President Bill Clinton attended his funeral service at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in his hometown of Yorba Linda, California. He was joined by all four living former Presidents--Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.