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37th President

Terms: 1969-1974
Political Party: Republican
First Lady: Patricia Ryan Nixon
Vice President: Spiro T. Agnew, Gerald R. Ford

Overview

Born: January 9, 1913, in Yorba Linda, California... Richard Nixon was the first president to resign from office... The enigmatic nature of the Nixon presidency combined comparatively progressive legislative initiatives with a flagrant abuse of presidential power and the public trust. His achievements in expanding peaceful relations with China and the Soviet Union stand in stark contrast with his continuation of the war in Vietnam. Finally brought down by scandal and duplicity, his administration did much to erode the citizenry's faith in government... Died: April 22, 1994.

Did you know? -- Read some fun facts about Richard M. Nixon

The Era

  • Woodstock Music and Art Fair (1969)
  • Man lands on moon (1969)
  • Environmental Protection Agency formed (1970)
  • Allende elected president of Chile (1970)
  • China is admitted to United Nations (1971)
  • Ms. magazine begins publication (1972)
  • Roe v. Wade decision handed down by Supreme Court (1973)
  • Native Americans stage protest at Wounded Knee, South Dakota (1973)

World Timeline -- See a timeline of world events during Richard M. Nixon's administration.

Domestic Politics

Shortly after Richard Nixon took office in 1969, he proposed a dramatic restructuring of American government. The bloated federal bureaucracies, Nixon believed, buried creative entrepreneurship under mountains of red tape and fostered dependency on handouts. He called instead for a "New Federalism" -- a system which directed money and power away from the federal bureaucracy and toward states and municipalities. This system, Nixon said, could respond more efficiently to the needs of the people. The president's New Federalism was anything but new. In fact, if not in name, Nixon had been a practicing New Federalist since he entered Congress in 1946. Throughout his political career, he had opposed big government programs and fought to restore political authority to the local level. Now he would use the power of the presidency to further the cause of New Federalism.

Read the page on Nixon's Domestic Politics

Foreign Affairs

To many who had watched Richard M. Nixon build his political career as a Communist fighter, it must have seemed the ultimate irony. On July 15, 1971, Nixon announced on national television that he would become the first president ever to visit the People's Republic of China, a nation which had remained isolated from the West since the Communist revolution in 1949. For Nixon, however, his upcoming visit represented the ultimate diplomatic triumph. Although he had publicly condemned the Chinese Communists, he had proposed a more relaxed attitude toward the People's Republic as early as 1954. In 1967, as a presidential candidate, he had written in the magazine Foreign Affairs, "We simply cannot afford to leave China outside the family of nations."

Visit the page on Nixon's Foreign Affairs

Presidential Politics

Richard Nixon was first elected to the presidency in 1968. Starting with President Lyndon Johnson's stunning decision not to seek a second term, the campaign of that year reflected the uncertainty and turmoil that gripped much of the nation. Hundreds of young Americans were dying in Vietnam. In the spring, civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis. In June, Senator Robert Kennedy was shot and killed following his victory in the California Democratic primary. Nixon's eventual challenger, Hubert Humphrey, won the nomination at a chaotic and violent convention. When the dust settled, Richard Nixon was the last contender still standing. The nation around him, however, was reeling.

Read the page on Nixon's Presidential Politics 

Extended Biography 
Access in-depth biographical materials for Richard M. Nixon

Additional Resources
Explore bonus materials for Richard M. Nixon, including primary sources, audio interviews, television program transcripts, and in-depth teacher's guides

My American Experience

My American Experience photos

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  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH

  • Additional funding for this program was provided by

  • NEH