We visited the Richard M. Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, Californi, where President Nixon was born and was buried in 1994 on the grounds of the Library, next to his wife Patricia. We discussed as we went through the museum and library that it was John’s first time to vote and Janice could not, as she was not old enough to vote for him in the 1968 election, since you had to be 21 in order to vote.
History of Richard Nixon’s presidency and later political influence has not been taught as the real memory of the Nixon years was Watergate. So let’s get that out of the way before we talk about the Library and all that is available to any of us that choose to visit.
The Library does an excellent job of spelling out all the activities that led up to his resignation, from the “Enemies List”, drawn up by John Dean to have the IRS perform audits, which the Director of the IRS refused to do, up through the bundled burglary of the Democratic National Headquarters at the Watergate Complex in Washington D.C. leading to the cover-up. With the House of Representatives voting to impeach, him he chose resign rather than going to trial in the Senate. As we will discuss, it was not the end of this President’s actions on behalf of the country he loved to serve.
The early years:
Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, California to parents that were local merchants, all in the
family worked in the family store. He graduated from Whittier College and then graduated from Duke University Law School in 1937, returning to California to practice law. He and his wife, Pat, moved to Washington to work for the federal government in 1942. He subsequently served in the United States Navy, serving in the South Pacific during World War II. Nixon was elected to the House of Representatives in 1946 and then to the U.S. 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 selected as the running mate for Dwight D. Eisenhower for the Republican ticket in the 1952 election. Nixon served for eight years as vice president. The media attacked him for a “fund” that was put together after his 1950 election to the Senate to pay for travel and other campaign activities. Nixon addressed the country on television and radio in a broadcast paid for by the Republican National Committee (RNC) ($75,000), listened to by over 60,000,000 people, the largest audience as of that date and discussed the charges. He told people to let the RNC know if they thought he should stay on the ticket. He said one gift he would not return was a black and white dog that the Nixon children had named Checkers. He gained overwhelming support, stayed on the ticket and they won the 1952 election. The speech became known as the “Checkers Speech”.
He served as Vice President through 1960 and was nominated for president. He waged an unsuccessful presidential campaign, narrowly losing to John F. Kennedy and then lost a race for Governor of California in 1962. During those years in between running again in 1968 he spent time working within the Republican Party becoming the “big winner” of the 1966 mid-term elections helping many Republicans get elected. He had returned to the political field and threw his hat into the primaries leading up to the 1968 election.. He knew that one defeat in the primaries and he was not going to represent the party in the 1968 election. He won them all and went on to defeat Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 election for president.
The library does a great job taking you through those early years of his career leading up to the presidency. The exhibits of his years in the White House were well documented and because he lived for so many years beyond his presidency, he had filmed comments recorded on the various issues of his years as president.
Nixon’s domestic accomplishments while in office included:
1. ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) which he fought for getting the Senate to pass it, but only 30 of the 50 states ratified it.
2. He improved integration of schools with only 10% being integrated upon entering office and 70% integrated upon leaving, basically ending segregation.
3. Revenue sharing was established with a share of federal tax revenue, with virtually no restrictions, was given to the states, cities, counties, and townships.
4. He ended the draft creating our all voluntary armed forces.
5. New anti crime laws were established to help stop organized crime through the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act or as we know it RICO.
5. He started the process of ending the Cold War.
6. Recognized and fought against foreign oil price gouging.
7. EPA He implemented a broad environmental program which became the Environmental Protection Agency. Many of us remember the lakes and rivers that were toxic from chemicals and sewage dumped into them. Most are environmentally save for recreation. Love Canal in Niagara Falls, NY was discovered in 1977 and the EPA policies put in place by Nixon went on to clean it up and hold Hooker Chemical responsible for the pollution from chemical waste. We all gained an appreciation for our environment and sensitive to anything that would spoil it, however as of late, it has been used for ridiculous political ends.
8. He was the only President to achieve a balanced national budget between 1961 and 1998.
Nixon’s international accomplishments included:
Some of his most acclaimed achievements came in his quest for world stability. During visits in 1972 to Beijing and Moscow, he reduced tensions with China and the U.S.S.R. His summit meetings with Russian leader Leonid I. Brezhnev produced a treaty to limit strategic nuclear weapons.
The Chinese government had so much respect for the president that they had a needlepoint made of the meeting between Zhou Enlai, Mao and Nixon and given as a gift to the Nixon Library in 1991.
In January 1973, he announced an accord with North Vietnam to end American involvement in Indochina. Our POWs in North Vietnam were returned to the United States. The flag below was made by our POWs in North Vietnam, from various materials over a week of work and used for 18 months as there symbol of love and respect to our country.
Each evening when their activities were completed, the flag was taken out and hung where all the POWs would salute it. It flew all night and the men would salute it in the morning before the guards arrived for the day It was hidden in mosquito netting and was not found upon many inspections. It was carried out of the prison upon their release, sewn between two North Vietnamese handkerchiefs.
In 1974, his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, negotiated disengagement agreements between Israel and its opponents, Egypt and Syria.
Upon leaving office, he was deeply in debt, having personally run up over $1,000,000 in legal bills and other debts, including back taxes to the federal government. 1974 was a hard year and a low point for him. The man that had politically recovered so many times before was ready to rebuild his reputation. Financially strapped and in need of repaying his debts he contracted to write his memoirs for a $2 million advance and contracted to do interviews with British television personality David Frost for $600,000. He sold his Florida home and other real estate holdings along with the book becoming a best seller was able to retire his debt. He traveled back to China in 1976 and was warmly received, which led to other international travel. Internationally, leaders did not understand the fuss over Watergate. In 1978 he started do do small speaking engagements and continued to write political best sellers. Meanwhile, Nixon began to reclaim a place on the national scene. He dispensed his advice to all who would listen, including talking to President Jimmy Carter about normalizing relations with China in 1978. Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush began to consult him although they did not publicize that fact.
Nixon died from complications of a stroke on April 22, 1994, and his funeral drew
luminaries from around the globe, including every living President. President Bill Clinton’s eulogy dwelled on Nixon’s great accomplishments, particularly in foreign affairs, rather than on his constitutional crimes, remarking “May the day of judging President Nixon on anything less than his entire life and career come to a close.”
Nixon’s legacy is very interesting and a visit to the Nixon Library is a great historical experience.