Richard Nixon (1913 – 1994) was a Republican politician who became the 37th president of the United States from 1969 to 1974. He is most remembered for the Watergate scandal, which led to him resigning. He is the only American president to date ever to have resigned. However, there is much more to Nixon’s term of office than the events leading to his resignation.
Let’s have a look at the top 10 most interesting facts about Richard Nixon.
Richard Nixon facts
1. Nixon was a farmer’s son.
Richard Nixon was born to a poor farming family in Southern California. An interesting fact about Richard Nixon is that he studied law at Duke University and returned briefly to California to practice law. In 1942, he and his wife moved to Washington to work for the federal government. He served in the navy during World War II.
2. His pursuit of Algar Hiss established his prominence as an anti-communist.
Nixon was elected to congress in 1946 and again in 1948. He headed up the House Un-American Activities Committee’s investigation of Algar Hiss, an American government official accused of being a Soviet spy. The statute of limitations for espionage had been exceeded, but Hiss was jailed for perjury related to the case in 1950. Nixon’s anti-communist actions drew him to national prominence.
3. Dwight Eisenhower selected Richard Nixon as his vice president.
In 1952, Nixon ran alongside Eisenhower as his choice of vice president. They won and were re-elected in 1956. Their first campaign faced a minor crisis when attention was drawn to Nixon’s donor fund, which reimbursed him for political expenses. It wasn’t illegal but was perceived to leave him open to conflicts of interest. Nixon defended himself in what has become known as the “Checkers” speech. He portrayed himself as a man of modest means, unable to support his campaign expenses personally. He then referred to one gift in particular that he would not relinquish – a little dog called Checkers that had won his daughter’s heart. The speech earned him the support of the public, and Eisenhower chose to retain him.
4. He was inaugurated as president in January 1969.
Nixon’s first presidential campaign was in 1960 when he chose Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. as his running mate. The Democratic candidate was John F. Kennedy, who won by just 113 000 votes, an interesting fact about Richard Nixon. He based his campaign on experience, but Kennedy hit back by blaming the Eisenhower-Nixon years for giving the upper hand to the Soviet Union in the Cold war.
5. Nixon’s environmental policy was ground-breaking.
Richard Nixon probably didn’t care much about the environment. However, public demonstrations on Earth Day 1970, convinced him of the voter appeal tied up in protection of the environment, and he was responsible for some seminal legislation. He formed the Environmental Protection Agency and supported the Clean Air Act, which governed air pollution levels. Shortly afterward, the National Environmental Policy Act was put in place to regulate the environmental impact of Federal projects. In 1972, Nixon vetoed the Clean Water Act, but not because he didn’t support the principle. He objected to the budget assigned to it, and when Congress overrode his veto, he impounded the funds he regarded as excessive.
6. Richard Nixon instituted the first affirmative action program.
In 1967, Nixon established the “Philadelphia Plan,” which enforced racial integration on federal construction contracts by setting minimum quotas for “nonwhite” hiring by the construction trade unions. It was declared illegal, but a revised version was pushed through and extended beyond Philadelphia. However, the unions lost control of hiring in the 1970s, so it had little long-term effect.
7. Nixon’s support of Israel set off the Oil-Crisis.
During the Yom Kippur war, Richard Nixon arranged aid for Israel. An interesting fact about Richard Nixon is that this action set off the October 1973 Oil Embargo, a policy adopted by members of the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC) against nations supporting Israel in the war. By the time the embargo ended in March 1974, oil prices had risen 400%. The initiative was known as the first “oil shock,” and it had long term effects on the American and global economy.
8. “Ping-pong diplomacy” allowed Nixon to shift the Cold War to the West.
Since the 1960s, the friendship between the Soviet Union and China had taken strain. Nixon took advantage of this to strengthen ties with the People’s Republic of China after 21 years of estrangement. He dropped certain trade restrictions imposed previously, and the nations’ table tennis teams undertook reciprocal tournaments. These initiatives were dubbed “ping-pong diplomacy.” In 1972, Nixon made the first official presidential visit to China and adopted a “one China” principle through the Shanghai Communiqué. Under this principle, Taiwan was no longer acknowledged as an independent nation. America’s new relationship with China made the Soviet Union more amenable to talks. This resulted in the Strategic Arms Limitations agreements designed to deter them from taking the first nuclear strike.
9. The Vietnam War came to an end during Nixon’s presidency.
When Nixon took office, the war in Vietnam was killing 300 American soldiers a week and costing the U.S. between $60 million and $80 million a day. His policy of “Vietnamization” focused on replacing American soldiers with Vietnamese troops, an interesting Richard Nixon fact. By 1972, about 80% of American troops had been withdrawn. At the same time, however, Nixon resumed bombing of North Vietnam and extended U.S. action to Cambodia and Laos (who were neutral at the time.) This was to destroy enemy safe havens that had been created there. In January 1973, the Paris Peace Accords signed by the United States, South Vietnam, Viet Cong, and North Vietnam put an end to the war.
10. The Watergate scandal led to Richard Nixon’s resignation.
The Watergate scandal refers to the discovery that the Nixon administration had broken into and illegally bugged the offices of the Democratic Party at the Watergate Complex in Washington. After the arrest of the men who carried out the operation, Nixon obstructed the course of justice through a series of cover-ups, bribes, and lies. On August 8, 1974, when it was clear he stood no chance of eluding impeachment, Nixon resigned. Gerald Ford, his vice president, succeeded him. On September 8, 1974, Ford pardoned Nixon.
Richard Nixon made significant and positive progress on civil rights, environmental protection, and international relations. He redeemed his reputation post-Watergate with the publication of ten best-selling books on foreign affairs and consulted for many years.
I hope that this article on Richard Nixon facts was helpful. If you are interested, visit the Historical People Facts Page!