Richard Nixon was one of the best-known American politicians of the 20th century’s second half, and one of the most controversial. So how much do you know about the 37th President on the occasion of his birthday?
Nixon burst on to the political scene just after World War II, when he won seats in the United States House of Representatives and the Senate from California. His political career ended in August 1974, with his historic resignation during the Watergate scandal.
In between, Nixon became one of the most famous figures in the world and fixture in national politics. Here are a few things you may, or may not know, about his roller-coaster career.
1. Nixon and Franklin Roosevelt are the only two people to appear on a national presidential ticket five times. Nixon won election in four of the five races, as did FDR. Nixon was the winning vice-presidential candidate in 1952 and 1956, and he won the 1968 and 1972 presidential elections. Roosevelt won four presidential elections and lost as a vice presidential candidate in 1920.
2. Nixon had a chance to attend Harvard but had to decline. As a student, Richard Nixon was third in his class and was offered a tuition grant to Harvard, but he was needed at home by his family.
3. He was also an outstanding law student. After graduating from Whittier College in California, Nixon received a full scholarship to Duke Law and graduated third in his class.
4. Nixon was a lieutenant commander in the Navy during World War II. He served in a variety of administrative positions but didn’t see combat during his time in the Pacific.
5. Richard Nixon almost became an FBI agent in the 1930s. Nixon applied to the agency but never heard back about his application. He had been accepted but then budget cuts eliminated his position.
6. Nixon was only 39 years old when he ran for vice president in 1952. Presidential candidate Dwight Eisenhower didn’t have a preference for a running mate, and party leaders favored Nixon for his anti-Communist stance and his strength in California.
7. Nixon survived two potentially fatal political losses in 1960 and 1962. Defeats in the presidential campaign against John F. Kennedy and the 1962 Californian governor’s race led many political observers to predict Nixon’s career was over. Within six years, he was President after winning a hard-fought campaign in 1968.
8. Nixon used the comedy show “Laugh-In” to get elected. At least, that is what Nixon reportedly said after he did a cameo appearance on the show just weeks before the 1968 election. Hubert Humphrey refused to do a similar appearance on the show.
9. Nixon was the first President to visit a nation not recognized by our own government. Nixon’s trip to China in 1972 was unique since the United States recognized Taiwan as the legitimate government of mainland China.
10. The Checkers speech was partially intended as an inside joke about FDR. The national TV speech that saved Nixon’s career in 1952 was a masterful political move, but the reference to Checkers the dog was meant as a jab at FDR’s famous Fala speech that Republicans would get. Years later, Nixon was still upset that it was called the Checkers speech and people mostly remembered the reference to his pet dog.