Introduction to Every Leader
Being There: Encountering America's Presidents
Nixon & birthplace
RICHARD M. NIXON
37th President of the United States, 1969-1974
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AMERICAN PRESIDENTS

Richard M. Nixon Birthplace
California
 

Richard M. Nixon birthplace
Richard M. Nixon Birthplace
Steve Greene for
Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

Richard Nixon’s term as the 37th president of the United States was a roller-coaster ride of success and failure, of triumph and defeat.  Born into modest circumstances in this small frame house, he won election as president in 1968 in a remarkable comeback from his defeat in the 1960 presidential election and the loss of his bid for governor of California two years later.  His margin of victory in the 1972 presidential election when he ran for a second term is one of the widest on record.  President Nixon ended the draft and oversaw the withdrawal of American forces from Vietnam.  He reached out to China, meeting personally with Mao Zedong, and reduced tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. His administration ended in scandal in 1974, however.  The expanding investigation of a bungled burglary at the Watergate office complex in Washington, DC ultimately forced Nixon to resign to avoid almost certain impeachment.  In the years before his death in 1994, he gained praise as an elder statesman.  His restored birthplace home is now part of a nine-acre museum complex that includes gardens and exhibit galleries.

Richard Milhous Nixon was born in this modest house on January 9, 1913.  His father, Frank Nixon, used a kit to build the house in a small grove of trees on his eight-acre citrus farm.  The one and one-half story, white clapboard siding house has a low-pitched gable roof.  A long dormer on the north side lights a small second-floor bedroom.  The front elevation features a projecting gable-roofed entry.  There is a small flat-roofed addition on the back. 

Nixon’s parents were members of the Quaker community in Yorba Linda and active in civic life.  They taught their four sons patience, courage, and determination, qualities that Nixon drew strength from during trying times.  He later recalled that he gained his first taste for politics during debates around the family dinner table and described friendly pillow fights with his three brothers in the small upstairs bedroom they shared.  The family lived here until 1922, when they moved to the nearby community of Whittier.

Nixon had a brilliant record at Whittier College and Duke University Law School, in North Carolina.  He opened his law practice in Whittier and became involved in local politics as a Republican.  In 1940, he married Thelma Catherine Ryan, universally known as “Pat.”  He served 14 months on active duty in the Pacific during World War II.  Nixon ran for the United States House of Representatives in 1946, defeating a long-term Democratic incumbent.  He won national recognition, and controversy, as an anti-communist crusader on the Un-American Activities Committee.  Reelected to the House in 1948, he easily won a seat in the United States Senate two years later in an extremely bitter campaign.

In 1952, Republican presidential candidate, Dwight D. Eisenhower chose Nixon, only 39 years old, as his running mate.  During the campaign, accusations of using political contributions for personal purposes threatened Nixon’s place on the ticket.  He saved his candidacy in one of the first live, nationwide political television broadcasts—the famous "Checkers" speech.  Nixon was an active and visible vice president and had no trouble gaining the nomination to succeed Eisenhower in 1960.  His extremely narrow loss to John F. Kennedy was the first defeat in his career.  Returning to California, he ran for governor two years later and lost again.  He thought his political career was over, telling reporters, “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore . . .  This is my last press conference.”

Nixon remained active in Republican politics during these “wilderness years,” however, and in 1968, he again sought the presidential nomination.  He won the general election, defeating Democratic candidate Hubert Humphrey and third-party candidate George Wallace.  Reelected in 1972, Nixon won the largest number of popular votes in the nation's history, defeating Democrat George McGovern in the Electoral College by 520 to 71.

Nixon Presidential Library & Museum
The Nixon Presidential Library & Museum
Steve Greene for
Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum

President Nixon’s domestic achievements included revenue sharing, new anticrime laws, a broad environmental program, and the end of the military draft.  Concerned about rising inflation, he instituted mandatory wage and price controls.  On July 19, 1969, Nixon spoke with the American astronauts who had made the first Moon landing in a long-distance telephone call.

Working with his Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, Nixon pursued a vigorous foreign policy.  His first priority was the conflict in Vietnam.  The invasion of Cambodia and expanded bombing in North Vietnam triggered violent protests in 1970. A student protest at Kent State University met with police violence that left four students dead.  More than 4 million students participated in the following nationwide strike.  In January 1973, Nixon announced an accord with North Vietnam ending American military involvement in Southeast Asia. By March, he reduced the number of United States military forces in Vietnam to zero, from 543,000 in April 1969.

One of President Nixon’s proudest achievements was opening official contact between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.  He was the first American president to visit China during his term of office.  His talks with Chairman Mao Zedong and Premier Zhou Enlai led to a new spirit of amity between the two countries.  On a trip to the Soviet Union, he met with Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev, preparing the ground for the signing of the first treaty to limit nuclear arms. 

The series of revelations that led to Nixon's resignation began with a June 1971 burglary at the Democratic National Committee offices in the Watergate office complex in Washington, DC.  Newspaper accounts eventually traced the break-in, virtually ignored during the election campaign, to the president’s special reelection committee.  The investigation of the “Watergate Affair” eventually led to the conviction and imprisonment of a number of senior administration officials. Nixon himself denied any personal involvement in Watergate.  He tried to use executive privilege to protect audio tapes of conversations at the White House, but the Supreme Court overruled his efforts.  When the tapes indicated that he had tried to divert the investigation, his support with the public and in Congress eroded.  Late in July 1974, the House Judiciary Committee recommended his impeachment on counts of obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress.  Republican leaders urged Nixon to step down.  On August 8, 1974, he announced his decision to resign, saying that he wished to begin the “process of healing which is so desperately needed in America.”  His resignation was effective at noon on August 9.  Gerald Ford succeeded Nixon as president.  Ford, who had been majority leader of the House of Representatives, became vice president in December 1973 after Vice President Spiro T. Agnew resigned in October 1973 amid a bribery scandal.

In retirement, Nixon represented the United States on a number of trips abroad, gaining unusual access to major political leaders because of his status as an elder statesman.  He also maintained a busy speaking schedule and wrote 10 books.  He played an active role in planning his presidential library in Yorba Linda, and he and his wife were present at its dedication in 1990.  Richard Nixon suffered a stroke in April 1994 at his home in New Jersey, dying a few days later.  His grave and that of his wife, who died in 1993, lie near the birthplace on the grounds of the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.

The Richard Nixon birthplace home changed hands a number of times after the Nixons moved out in 1922. Frank Nixon, the president's father, sold parts of the property between 1922 and 1925, when the Yorba Linda School District bought five and one-half acres of the land to build a school. In 1948, the school district purchased the remaining land, including the birthplace, and installed the school's caretaker in the home. Nixon formed the private nonprofit Richard Nixon Library Foundation for the purpose of building his presidential library in 1969, after he became president. Work on the library did not begin until after he left office, but fundraising continued. In 1978, a group of businessmen purchased the birthplace on behalf of the Foundation. The City of Yorba Linda deeded the whole nine and one-half-acre site over to the Nixon Library Foundation ten years later. In anticipation of the Nixon Library's opening in 1990, the home was carefully restored with many of its original furnishings, including the bedstead in which President Nixon was born. The private Nixon Library was transferred to the Federal Government's National Archives and Records Administration on July 11, 2007. The home remains under the Foundation's administration and is open to visitors.

Plan your visit

The Richard M. Nixon Birthplace in Yorba Linda, CA, has been designated a National Historic Landmark.  Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration file: text and photos.  It is open daily from 10:00am to 5:00pm, Sundays 11:00am to 5:00pm. It is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day.  An admission fee is charged. Tickets must be purchased at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, located at 18001 Yorba Linda Blvd, Yorba Linda.   Regular admission includes the gardens, the birthplace home and the galleries.  Docents are available to give tours at the Birthplace.  Museum visitors begin their tour by viewing a 27-minute movie about Nixon's career. Visit the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace Foundation website or call 714-993-5075.

For moreinformation, visit the National Archives Nixon Presidential Library and Museum website, or call 714-983-9120. The website contains additional information on the birthplace and the museum.  Visitors to the website can also hear Nixon describing his childhood memories of his birthplace.

 
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