Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913 – April 22, 1994) was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, California. After completing his undergraduate work at Whittier College, he graduated from Duke University School of Law in 1937 and returned to California to practice law. He and his wife, Pat Nixon, moved to Washington to work for the federal government in 1942. He subsequently joined the United States Navy, serving in the Pacific Theatre during World War II. Nixon was elected to the House of Representatives in 1946 and to the Senate in 1950. His pursuit of the Hiss Case established his reputation as a leading anti-communist, and elevated him to national prominence. He was the running mate of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Republican Party presidential nominee in the 1952 election, the first of five national nominations he received from his party, a record he shares with Franklin Roosevelt. Nixon served for eight years as vice president, traveling extensively and undertaking major assignments from Eisenhower. Nixon waged an unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1960, narrowly losing to John F. Kennedy, and lost a race for Governor of California in 1962. Following these defeats, he announced his withdrawal from political life. However, in 1968 he ran again for the presidency and was elected.
American involvement in Vietnam was widely unpopular; although Nixon initially escalated the war there, he subsequently moved to end US involvement, completely withdrawing American forces by 1973. Nixon’s ground-breaking visit to the People’s Republic of China in 1972 opened diplomatic relations between the two nations, and he initiated détente and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the Soviet Union the same year. In domestic policy, his administration generally sought to transfer power from Washington to the states. In an attempt to slow inflation, Nixon imposed wage and price controls. He enforced desegregation of Southern schools and established the Environmental Protection Agency. Though he presided over Apollo 11, the culmination of the project to land a person on the moon, he scaled back manned space exploration. He was reelected by a landslide in 1972.
Nixon’s second term was marked by crisis: 1973 saw an Arab oil embargo as a result of U.S. support for Israel in the Yom Kippur War and a continuing series of revelations about the Watergate scandal, which began as a break-in at a Washington office. The scandal escalated despite efforts by the Nixon administration to cover it up, costing Nixon much of his political support, and on August 9, 1974, he resigned in the face of almost certain impeachment and removal from office. After his resignation, he was controversially issued a pardon by his successor, Gerald Ford. In retirement, Nixon’s work as an elder statesman—authoring several books and undertaking many foreign trips—helped to rehabilitate his image. He suffered a debilitating stroke on April 18, 1994, and died four days later at the age of 81. Nixon remains a source of considerable interest among historians, as they struggle to resolve the enigma of a president of great ability who left office in disgrace yet subsequently reinvented himself as an elder statesman.