Birth of Richard Nixon 

U.S. #2955 was issued a little over a year after Nixon’s death.

Richard Milhous Nixon was born into a poor Quaker family in Yorba Linda, California, on January 9, 1913.

Nixon excelled as a student and became a successful debater and public speaker during his high school years. While practicing law in California, Nixon participated in a local play, where he met his future wife, Thelma “Pat” Ryan.

Nixon’s political aspirations moved his family to Washington, D.C., in 1942, just as the United States was becoming heavily involved in World War II. A Quaker by birth, Nixon could have been exempt from military service, but he chose to enlist in the Naval Reserves. Early in the war, he served in the South Pacific as a naval passenger control officer. By its end, he had achieved the rank of lieutenant commander.

After the war, Nixon ran for and won a seat in California’s 12th Congressional District. He spent three years in the House, before winning a seat in the Senate. As a Senator, Nixon gave speeches across the country warning of the threat global communism posed. General Dwight Eisenhower soon selected this highly visible young politician as his running mate for the 1952 presidential election. It was during this campaign that Nixon had his first brush with scandal.

Though not illegal per se, vice-presidential candidate Nixon was accused of receiving reimbursement for political expenses from his supporters. If true, this might imply an unethical profit or a conflict of interest. Nixon took the bull by the horns and addressed the country on television – a fairly new media outlet at the time. In an eloquent live speech, Nixon explained to 60 million viewers that no wrongdoing had occurred, except perhaps one campaign gift that he refused to return – a cocker spaniel his six-year-old daughter had already bonded with. The speech was a huge success. Eisenhower and Nixon won the election less than two months later.

As vice president, Nixon had more responsibility than any man previously in the position. He was heavily involved in both domestic and foreign policy. He even acted in Eisenhower’s absence after the President suffered a heart attack and later a stroke, despite there being no constitutional authority for him to do so. But he never overstepped his bounds or tried to assume more power than was required at the time. Nixon’s efforts won him favor with the American public and he could see a successful bid for the presidency in his future.

Item #57343A – First Day Cover with Nixon cachet.

The 1960 presidential race did not work out in Nixon’s favor. The popular, young, and charismatic John F. Kennedy won the election, but by a small margin. Nixon and his family quietly returned to California, later moving to New York, where he went back to practicing law. But Nixon stayed keenly aware of, and involved in politics.

In 1968, Nixon got back into the game and won the presidency. He took office eager to bring a divided country together, saying in his inaugural address, “the greatest honor history can bestow is that of peacemaker.”

In an effort to slow inflation, Nixon uncharacteristically applied temporary wage and price freezes while searching for a better solution. He implemented “New Federalism” style programs that diverted certain rights and responsibilities back to the individual states. The plan was not to absolve the Federal Government of all accountability, but to lessen its administrative cost and burden, in theory.

Item #57345A – 1986 Nixon Maxicard.

Initiatives under New Federalism were promoted with promises of greater state autonomy, as well as increased funding. Nixon saw the states and localities as better fiscal managers than the federal bureaucracy. But Nixon’s New Federalism did not push everything to the states. He understood that some issues cross state lines and others are just inherently national in scope. He divided and assigned responsibilities where he believed they belonged. Many of the new programs included unprecedented welfare and healthcare reform, environmental protection, and civil and equal rights acts, some of which are still in operation.

To achieve peace at home, Nixon knew he needed to tackle foreign affairs as well. He eventually established a working relationship with isolationist China, achieved détente with the Soviet Union, and pulled the United States out of Vietnam. Despite his distrust of Cuban President Fidel Castro, in 1970 Nixon even confirmed a preexisting peace accord between the nations. And although things escalated in the Middle East between Israel and her neighbors in 1973, almost causing nuclear war, Nixon’s involvement in peace negotiations brought the U.S. closer to both Egypt and Israel in the aftermath of the situation.

Nixon was also able to negotiate nuclear arms control agreements with the Soviet Union, a step that would contribute to the end of the Cold War years later. Trade was increased between the countries. And with nuclear peace within their grasp, they publicly declared a “new era of peaceful existence.”

Item #97830 – Commemorative Medal Cover marking Nixon’s 81st birthday.

Biographers have described Nixon as almost paranoid in some respects. He generally thought the odds were against him and that he felt constantly “under siege.” He had a lengthy “List of Enemies” naming all of his perceived political nemeses. The Watergate scandal all started with “plumbers” being tasked with finding dirt on one of the enemies on Nixon’s list, Daniel Ellsberg. In 1971, Ellsberg had released the “Pentagon Papers,” revealing top-secret government decisions regarding the war in Vietnam. Nixon knew that most of the information would be lost on the public and that it tarnished the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations’ reputations more than his own. But even so, its publication could undermine the people’s trust in their government and Commander in Chief. An operation commenced to dig up dirt on Ellsberg to discredit him. But nothing was found. All charges against Ellsberg were eventually dropped. The Nixon White House was completely disgraced. With an election year fast approaching, Nixon could afford no further embarrassment.

At some point after the Pentagon Papers debacle, administrators in the Nixon White House decided to seek disparaging evidence against Democratic Presidential Candidate Senator George McGovern. Nixon believed McGovern was receiving campaign funds from communist supporters. In the spring of 1972, plans to break into McGovern’s campaign headquarters were hatched, but fell through. The new target became the Democratic National Committee (DNC) offices at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. That May, after two unsuccessful attempts, a team was able to break into the DNC offices and set up surveillance equipment. When the bugs and wiretaps began to fail, the team returned to the DNC on June 12, but were unable to accomplish their task. That day, the five men were caught and arrested for breaking in to the Democratic Committee offices at the Watergate Hotel.

Item #IC 1969 – 1969 Nixon Inauguration Cover.

In November, Nixon won the 1972 election by a landslide. But by January, the Watergate investigation was well underway and fingers were starting to point toward the Oval Office. Within the year, Nixon himself had been implicated in the scandal and talks of impeachment were heard through Congress. The final blow came when transcripts of Nixon’s taped phone conversations were released. It became clear that while he may not have been behind the illegal activity at the Watergate Hotel, Nixon was up to his neck in the cover-up. With grounds for impeachment mounting, Nixon announced his resignation as President of the United States on August 8, 1974. He left office the next day.

After leaving office, Nixon retired with his wife to California. Only a month after resigning, President Ford pardoned him for any wrongdoing. Though personally protected from legal action, he was still subpoenaed in other trials related to Watergate. Despite this, Nixon still intended to return to public service in politics.

Item #IC 1973 – 1973 Nixon Inauguration Cover.

Over the next few years, Nixon penned his memoirs, participated in interviews, and made new political connections. He wrote ten books and numerous other published articles. He started to visit foreign countries and their leaders again, even attending the Shah of Iran’s funeral against the orders of the U.S. State Department. Once called “the senior statesman above the fray,” he had become a sort of independent politician. By the time of his death on April 22, 1994, Nixon had rehabilitated his image the best he could. But the association with corruption and scandal would forever accompany his name.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

Did you like this article? Click here to rate:
[Total: 14 Average: 4.9]

Share this article

22 responses to "Birth of Richard Nixon "

22 thoughts on “Birth of Richard Nixon ”

  1. Whoever wrote this should be ashamed of him/herself. What a whitewash!! In the office as he was, it was impossible to have such goings on and not know about them. Nixon was a paranoid crook and he knew it as did the American public. McGovern had no chance in the election against Nixon. The break-ins were nothing more than paranoid reactions to a dishonest politician and attempts to deflect any spill over of outburst from the burglaries. Nixon is a blot of shame on the presidency. Period!!

    Reply
      • I call the election of 2016, a missed opportunity to elect a great President. It’s important to remember that Hillary Clinton defeated D. Trump by over 2.9 million votes. Trump only won the electoral vote because all of the little states in the South and Midwest get way more electoral votes that their population warrants.

        Reply
        • Conrad – do you think voters would behave differently if the popular vote chose the president? I do. For example, my state, NY, was extremely likely to go for Hillary. And it did. I voted Libertarian. I didn’t really want Gary Johnson to win. But, I wanted to bring more attention to Libertarian ideas. My understanding is that increase vote counts really matter for smaller parties. So I find the popular vote discussion hard to reconcile with the reality of the election. Perhaps Hillary would have received more popular votes if there was a direct election. But, we’ll never know. And it doesn’t matter.

          Reply
          • Yes, I do think that the election would have been different. Trump would have campaigned more in states like New York and California, and Clinton would have campaigned in states like Texas and Ohio. I’m not sure that I would favor a direct popular vote for President, but there are better ways to do it than the present electoral college. And, yes, it does matter, because the winner in the electoral college was opposed by the majority of the American voters.

      • “the Obama” as you call him, is going to be remembered as one of our best Presidents, particularly when you consider the Republican Congress that fought him for the last six years and achieved what? Nothing

        Reply
  2. The White House “plumbers” were named and organized to stop leaks of information coming out of the White House to the press, like the “Pentagon Papers”.

    Reply
  3. David, wait 4 years and see what is said about Trump. A writer for the Indianapolis Star said we have had good presidents and bad presidents and we have made it thru both. I think president etc. should post job applications so the voters know more about them.

    Reply
    • He wasn’t called ‘Tricky Dick” for nothing. Nixon accomplished more to reduce spending and gathering world peace than most that followed him. Compared to todays “Crooks and Deep Staters” Nixon was a JV player.

      Reply
  4. Thanks again for these snippets of history. Those who want a political forum should take it elsewhere, these aren’t meant to be in depth discussions but glimpses into stamp related history. How many novice collectors will be turned off when they see the bitter comments posted here instead of positive comments about this service provided by Mystic at no charge and the amazing quality and design of the stamps presented. I think 2955 is a work of art.

    Reply
    • Come on Dave, as long as we keep the discussions civil; what does it matter if we stray a little into the political realm? After all, if you pick a person like Nixon to discuss you are bound to have a spirited discussion. Good discussions everyone.

      Reply
    • There goes that “glimpses” into history comment again. This is a great place to have an in depth discussion. People who collect stamps pretty obviously have an interest in history, and history isn’t all sweetness and roses. Some stamps depict controversial figures and events. A frank discussion of those controversies is a good thing.

      Reply
  5. I agree with Dave Bruce that these articles are not to be used as political forums but damn, they are amusing. So here is my 2 cents. Hey Libs, give Trump a chance. For all the Hillary lovers, she lost. Period. Get over it. And for David Manning, I think that Nixon was a great president.

    Reply
  6. Dave I think you are so correct. Theses are history lessons via stamps. I have my opinions about the election but this should not be the forum for it.

    Reply
  7. Although a registered Democrat, I shed a tear when I watched Nixon’s funeral on TV. This man did not have a fair shake with the media that eventually destroyed him. I respect any American who had the opportunity to become our president, which is the world’s most difficult job 24/7; therefore, I don’t envy his/her position. Stamps don’t take political sides that remind us of our nation’s history. Let’s give the new president a chance and I hope he succeeds in governing this nation.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Love history?

Discover events in American history – plus the stamps that make them come alive.

Subscribe to get This Day in History stories straight to your inbox every day!