Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913 – April 22, 1994) was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974, when he became the only president to resign the office. Nixon had previously served as a Republican U.S. representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961.
Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, California. He graduated from Whittier College in 1934 and Duke University School of Law in 1937, returning to California to practice law. He and his wife, Pat Nixon, moved to Washington to work for the federal government in 1942. He subsequently served in the United States Navy during World War II. Nixon was elected in California to the House of Representatives in 1946 and to the Senate in 1950. His pursuit of the Alger 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. Nixon served for eight years as vice president. He waged an unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1960, narrowly losing to John F. Kennedy, and lost a race for Governor of California in 1962. In 1968, he ran again for the presidency and was elected.
Although Nixon initially escalated America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, he subsequently ended U.S. involvement in 1973. Nixon’s 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. Domestically, his administration generally embraced policies that transferred power from Washington to the states. Among other things, he launched initiatives to fight cancer and illegal drugs, imposed wage and price controls, enforced desegregation of some Southern schools, and established the Environmental Protection Agency. Though he presided over the lunar landings beginning with Apollo 11, he scaled back manned space exploration. He was re-elected by a landslide in 1972.
Nixon’s second term saw an Arab oil embargo, the resignation of his vice president, Spiro Agnew, and a continuing series of revelations about the Watergate scandal and other misconduct by members of the administration. The scandal escalated, 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 controversially received a pardon issued 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 public image. He suffered a debilitating stroke on April 18, 1994, and died four days later at the age of 81.