Richard M. Nixon – 1913-1994
A California Republican, Nixon rose to national prominence as a red-baiting U.S. representative (1948-1951) and senator (1951–1953), earning the epithet “Tricky Dick” for his ruthless campaign tactics. Tapped as Dwight Eisenhower’s running mate in 1952, he served two terms as vice-president (1953–1961), then was defeated by John F. Kennedy in the presidential elections of 1960 and also lost the California gubernatorial race in 1962. Although many wrote off his political career, he reemerged as the Republican presidential candidate in 1968 and defeated Democrat Hubert Humphrey.
Nixon promised to end the war in Vietnam, and although he did withdraw large numbers of U.S. troops, he expanded the air war with massive bomb strikes and invaded Vietnam’s neighbor, Cambodia. His Vietnam policy increased the tempo and severity of antiwar demonstrations in the U.S. Conservative though it was, the Nixon administration also saw great strides in environmental legislation and in progress toward the end of the Cold War, as this hardline “Cold Warrior” reached out to the Soviet Union and, more successfully, to China. “Tricky Dick” reemerged, however, miring his second term in the Watergate scandal, a complex of illegal activities to sabotage the Democrats in 1972 and to cover it up afterward.
At 11:35 a.m. on August 9, 1974, Nixon became the first U.S. president to resign his office.