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Richard Nixon

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Richard M. Nixon, 37th president of the United States, was one of the most controversial

politicians. He used the communist scare of the late forties and early fifties to catapult his

career, but as president he eased tension with the Soviet Union and opened relations with

Red China. Nixon's administration occurred during the domestic upheavals brought on by

the civil rights movement and the Vietnam War. But, to his demise, the Watergate scandal

during his second term eventually forced him to resign to avoid impeachment.

Early Life

Richard Milhous Nixon was born on January 9, 1913 in Yorba Linda, California to

the proud parents of Francis Anthony Nixon and Hannah Milhous Nixon. Nixon, the

second of five sons, came from a southern-Quaker family, where hard work and integrity

were deeply-rooted and heavily emphasized. A terrific student, young Richard attended

public schools in Whittier, California, where he grew up, and was later invited by Harvard

and Yale to apply for scholarships. The affects of the Depression and his older brother's

illness made his presence necessary close to home, so he attended nearby Whittier College,

where he graduated second in his class in 1934. Nixon went on to law school at Duke

University, where his seriousness and determination won him the nickname "Gloomy

Gus." After graduating third in his class in 1937, Nixon applied for jobs with large

Northwestern law firms and the FBI. His applications were all rejected, however, his

mother helped him get a job at a friend's local law firm. There, Nixon met his fiancee

Thelma Ryan. On June 21, 1940, Thelma and Richard were married and soon after would

have two children, daughters Patricia Nixon in 1946 and Julie Nixon in 1948.

At the Outbreak of W.W.II, Nixon went to work for the tire-rationing section, the

Office of Price Administration in Washington, DC. Eight months later, he joined the Navy

and was sent to the Pacific as a supply officer. Nixon was popular with the men, and such

an accomplished poker player that he was able to send enough of his comrades money

back home to help fund his first political campaign.

After returning from the war, Nixon entered politics, answering a Republican party

call in the newspaper for someone to run against the five-term Democratic Congressman,

Jerry Voorhis. Nixon seemed the perfect man for the job, and he was welcomed

generously by the California Republican party.

The style of Nixon's first campaign set the tone for the early part of his political

career, where he achieved fame as a devout anti-Communist. He accused Congressman

Voorhis of being a communist, and even went so far to have campaign workers make

anonymous calls to voters stating the fact and advising that a vote for Nixon was therefore

the best move.

Nixon defeated Voorhis with sixty percent of the vote, and upon taking his seat in

Congress, he became the junior member of the House Committee on un-American

Activities. Nixon's pursuit of Alger Hiss, a former adviser to Franklin Roosevelt and one

of the organizers of the United Nations, brought him national exposure. Hiss had been

accused of being a communist and of transmitting secret Department documents to the

Soviets, and though many believed him innocent, Nixon fiercely pushed the case forward,

eventually getting Hiss convicted of perjury and jailed.

At the age of thirty five, Nixon was a national figure, and he used this fame to an

easy victory in his senate race against three-term Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas

in 1950, once again adopting a communist-bashing campaign. He accused Ms. Douglas,

who opposed the un-American Activities Committee, of being "pink right down to her

underwear." In return, Douglas gave Nixon his long-time nickname, "Tricky Dick."

Nixon was in the US Senate for a year-and-a-half when the Republican national

convention selected him to be General Dwight D. Eisenhower's running mate. Much of

Nixon's success had been built on the political destroying of his Democratic foes, and

Nixon was expected to do much of the dirty work of campaigning. Nixon performed his

task admirably, casting doubt on the abilities and patriotism of his and Eisenhower's

Democratic opponent, Adlai Stevenson.

Nixon had to face close scrutiny during the campaign, and when the New York

Post announced that he had received secret campaign contributions from wealthy sources,

he was nearly pushed of the ticket. Instead of giving up, Nixon went on national,

prime-time television and appealed directly to the voters. He delivered what has come to

be known as the "Checkers Speech," showing his financial situation and saying that he was

not a wealthy man. The only contribution he claimed to have kept was a dog named

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