Richard Milhous Nixon (January 9, 1913 – April 22, 1994) was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974, when he became the only president to resign the office. Nixon had previously served as a Republican U.S. Representative and Senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961.
Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, California. He graduated from Whittier College in 1934 and Duke University School of Law in 1937, returning to California to practice law. He and his wife, Pat Nixon, moved to Washington to work for the federal government in 1942. He subsequently served in the United States Navy during World War II. Nixon was elected in California to the House of Representatives in 1946 and to the 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 running mate of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Republican Party presidential nominee in the 1952 election. Nixon served for eight years as vice president. He waged an unsuccessful presidential campaign in 1960, narrowly losing to John F. Kennedy, and lost a race for Governor of California in 1962. In 1968, he ran again for the presidency and was elected.
Although Nixon initially escalated America's involvement in the Vietnam War, he subsequently ended U.S. involvement by 1973. Nixon's visit to the People's Republic of China in 1972 opened diplomatic relations between the two nations, and he initiated détente and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the Soviet Union the same year. Domestically, his administration generally embraced policies that transferred power from Washington to the states. Among other things, he launched initiatives to fight cancer and illegal drugs, imposed wage and price controls, enforced desegregation of Southern schools, implemented environmental reforms, and introduced legislation to reform healthcare and welfare. Though he presided over the lunar landings beginning with Apollo 11, he replaced manned space exploration with shuttle missions. He was re-elected by a landslide in 1972.
Nixon's second term saw a crisis in the Middle East, resulting in an oil embargo and the restart of the Middle East peace process, as well as a continuing series of revelations about the Watergate scandal. The scandal escalated, costing Nixon much of his political support, and on August 9, 1974, he resigned in the face of almost certain impeachment and removal from office. After his resignation, he accepted a pardon issued by his successor, Gerald Ford. In retirement, Nixon's work as an elder statesman, authoring nine books and undertaking many foreign trips, helped to rehabilitate his public image. He suffered a debilitating stroke on April 18, 1994, and died four days later at the age of 81.
Nixon was born to Francis A. Nixon and Hannah (Milhous) Nixon, on January 9, 1913, in a house his father built, in Yorba Linda, California. His mother was a Quaker (his father converted from Methodism after his marriage), and his upbringing was marked by conservative Quaker observances of the time, such as refraining from alcohol, dancing, and swearing. Nixon had four brothers: Harold (1909–33), Donald (1914–87), Arthur (1918–25), and Edward (born 1930). Four of the five Nixon boys were named after kings who had ruled in historical or legendary England; Richard, for example, was named after Richard the Lionheart. Nixon's father was Scotch-Irish while his mother was German, English, and Irish.
Nixon's early life was marked by hardship, and he later quoted a saying of Eisenhower to describe his boyhood: "We were poor, but the glory of it was we didn't know it". The Nixon family ranch failed in 1922, and the family moved to Whittier, California. In an area with many Quakers, Frank Nixon opened a grocery store and gas station. Richard's younger brother Arthur died in 1925 after a short illness. At the age of twelve, Richard was found to have a spot on his lung and, with a family history of tuberculosis, he was forbidden to play sports. Eventually, the spot was found to be scar tissue from an early bout of pneumonia.
Young Richard attended East Whittier Elementary School, where he was president of his eighth-grade class.
His parents believed that attendance at Whittier High School had caused Richard's older brother Harold to live a dissolute lifestyle before the older boy fell ill of tuberculosis (he died of the disease in 1933). Instead, they sent Richard to the larger Fullerton Union High School. He received excellent grades, even though he had to ride a school bus for an hour each way during his freshman year - later, he lived with an aunt in Fullerton during the week. He played junior varsity football, and seldom missed a practice, even though he was rarely used in games. He had greater success as a debater, winning a number of championships and taking his only formal tutelage in public speaking from Fullerton's Head of English, H. Lynn Sheller. Nixon later remembered Sheller's words, "Remember, speaking is conversation ... don't shout at people. Talk to them. Converse with them." Nixon stated that he tried to use the conversational tone as much as possible.
His parents permitted Richard to transfer to Whittier High School for his junior year, beginning in September 1928. At Whittier High, Nixon suffered his first electoral defeat, for student body president. He generally rose at 4 a.m., to drive the family truck into Los Angeles and purchase vegetables at the market. He then drove to the store to wash and display them, before going to school. Harold had been diagnosed with tuberculosis the previous year; when their mother took him to Arizona in the hopes of improving his health, the demands on Richard increased, causing him to give up football. Nevertheless, Richard graduated from Whittier High third in his class of 207 students.
Nixon was offered a tuition grant to attend Harvard University, but Harold's continued illness and the need for their mother to care for him meant Richard was needed at the store. He remained in his hometown and attended Whittier College, his expenses there covered by a bequest from his maternal grandfather. Nixon played for the basketball team; he also tried out for football, but lacked the size to play. He remained on the team as a substitute, and was noted for his enthusiasm. Instead of fraternities and sororities, Whittier had literary societies. Nixon was snubbed by the only one for men, the Franklins; many members of the Franklins were from prominent families but Nixon was not. He responded by helping to found a new society, the Orthogonian Society. In addition to the society, schoolwork, and work at the store, Nixon found time for a large number of extracurricular activities, becoming a champion debater and gaining a reputation as a hard worker. In 1933, he became engaged to Ola Florence Welch, daughter of the Whittier police chief. The two broke up in 1935.
After his graduation from Whittier in 1934, Nixon received a full scholarship to attend Duke University School of Law. The school was new and sought to attract top students by offering scholarships. It paid high salaries to its professors, many of whom had national or international reputations. The number of scholarships was greatly reduced for second- and third-year students, forcing recipients into intense competition. Nixon not only kept his scholarship but was elected president of the Duke Bar Association, inducted into the Order of the Coif, and graduated third in his class in June 1937. He later wrote of his alma mater: "I always remember that whatever I have done in the past or may do in the future, Duke University is responsible in one way or another."
After graduating from Duke, Nixon initially hoped to join the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He received no response to his letter of application and learned years later that he had been hired, but his appointment had been canceled at the last minute due to budget cuts. Instead, he returned to California and was admitted to the bar in 1937. He began practicing with the law firm Wingert and Bewley in Whittier, working on commercial litigation for local petroleum companies and other corporate matters, as well as on wills. In later years, Nixon proudly stated that he was the only modern president to have previously worked as a practicing attorney. Nixon was reluctant to work on divorce cases, disliking frank sexual talk from women. In 1938, he opened up his own branch of Wingert and Bewley in La Habra, California, and became a full partner in the firm the following year.
In January 1938, Nixon was cast in the Whittier Community Players production of The Dark Tower. There he played opposite a high school teacher named Thelma "Pat" Ryan. Nixon described it in his memoirs as "a case of love at first sight" - for Nixon only, as Pat Ryan turned down the young lawyer several times before agreeing to date him. Once they began their courtship, Ryan was reluctant to marry Nixon; they dated for two years before she assented to his proposal. They wed at a small ceremony on June 21, 1940. After a honeymoon in Mexico, the Nixons began their married life in Whittier. They had two children, Tricia (born 1946) and Julie (born 1948).
In January 1942, the couple moved to Washington, D.C., where Nixon took a job at the Office of Price Administration. In his political campaigns, Nixon would suggest that this was his response to Pearl Harbor, but he had sought the position throughout the latter part of 1941. Both Nixon and his wife believed he was limiting his prospects by remaining in Whittier. He was assigned to the tire rationing division, where he was tasked with replying to correspondence. He did not enjoy the role, and four months later, applied to join the United States Navy. As a birthright Quaker, he could have claimed exemption from the draft, and deferments were routinely granted for those in government service. His application was successful, and he was inducted into the Navy in August 1942.
Nixon completed Officers Candidate School and was commissioned as an ensign in October 1942. His first post was as aide to the commander of the Naval Air Station Ottumwa in Iowa. Seeking more excitement, he requested sea duty and was reassigned as the naval passenger control officer for the South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command, supporting the logistics of operations in the South West Pacific theater. He was Officer in Charge of the Combat Air Transport Command at Guadalcanal in the Solomons and later at Green Island (Nissan island) just north of Bougainville. His unit prepared manifests and flight plans for C-47 operations and supervised the loading and unloading of the cargo aircraft. For this service he received a Letter of Commendation for "meritorious and efficient performance of duty as Officer in Charge of the South Pacific Combat Air Transport Command" On October 1, 1943, Nixon was promoted to lieutenant. Nixon earned two service stars and that citation of commendation, although he saw no actual combat. Upon his return to the US, Nixon was appointed the administrative officer of the Alameda Naval Air Station in California. In January 1945, he was transferred to the Bureau of Aeronautics office in Philadelphia to help negotiate the termination of war contracts, and he received another letter of commendation for his work there. Later, Nixon was transferred to other offices to work on contracts and finally to Baltimore. In October 1945, he was promoted to lieutenant commander. He resigned his commission on New Year's Day 1946.
Nixon first gained national attention in 1948 when his investigation, as a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), broke the Alger Hiss spy case. While many doubted Whittaker Chambers' allegations that Hiss, a former State Department official, had been a Soviet spy, Nixon believed them to be true and pressed for the committee to continue its investigation. Under suit for defamation filed by Hiss, Chambers produced documents corroborating his allegations. These included paper and microfilm copies that Chambers turned over to House investigators after having hidden them overnight in a field; they became known as the "Pumpkin Papers". Hiss was convicted of perjury in 1950 for denying under oath he had passed documents to Chambers. In 1948, Nixon successfully cross-filed as a candidate in his district, winning both major party primaries, and was comfortably reelected.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower was nominated for president by the Republicans in 1952. He had no strong preference for a vice presidential candidate, and Republican officeholders and party officials met in a "smoke-filled room" and recommended Nixon to the general, who agreed to the senator's selection. Nixon's youth (he was then 39), stance against communism, and his political base in California - one of the largest states - were all seen as vote-winners by the leaders. Among the candidates considered along with Nixon were Ohio Senator Robert Taft, New Jersey Governor Alfred Driscoll and Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen. On the campaign trail, Eisenhower spoke to his plans for the country, leaving the negative campaigning to his running mate.
Eisenhower had pledged to give Nixon responsibilities during his term as vice president that would enable him to be effective from the start as a successor. Nixon attended Cabinet and National Security Council meetings and chaired them when Eisenhower was absent. A 1953 tour of the Far East succeeded in increasing local goodwill toward the United States and prompted Nixon to appreciate the potential of the region as an industrial center. He visited Saigon and Hanoi in French Indochina. On his return to the United States at the end of 1953, Nixon increased the amount of time he devoted to foreign relations.
In July 1959, President Eisenhower sent Nixon to the Soviet Union for the opening of the American National Exhibition in Moscow. On July 24, while touring the exhibits with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, the two stopped at a model of an American kitchen and engaged in an impromptu exchange about the merits of capitalism versus communism that became known as the "Kitchen Debate.
In 1960, Nixon launched his first campaign for President of the United States. He faced little opposition in the Republican primaries and chose former Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. as his running mate. His Democratic opponent was John F. Kennedy, and the race remained close for the duration. Nixon campaigned on his experience, but Kennedy called for new blood and claimed the Eisenhower–Nixon administration had allowed the Soviet Union to overtake the U.S. in ballistic missiles (the "missile gap"). A new political medium was introduced in the campaign: televised presidential debates. In the first of four such debates, Nixon appeared pale, with a five o'clock shadow, in contrast to the photogenic Kennedy. Nixon's performance in the debate was perceived to be mediocre in the visual medium of television, though many people listening on the radio thought that Nixon had won. Nixon lost the election narrowly, with Kennedy ahead by only 120,000 votes (0.2 percent) in the popular vote.
Nixon and Johnson meet at the White House before Nixon's nomination, July 1968.
At the end of 1967, Nixon told his family he planned to run for president a second time. Although Pat Nixon did not always enjoy public life (for example, she had been embarrassed by the need to reveal how little the family owned in the Checkers speech), she was supportive of her husband's ambitions. Nixon believed that with the Democrats torn over the issue of the Vietnam War, a Republican had a good chance of winning, although he expected the election to be as close as in 1960.
Nixon's Democratic opponent in the general election was Vice President Hubert Humphrey, who was nominated at a convention marked by violent protests. Throughout the campaign, Nixon portrayed himself as a figure of stability during a period of national unrest and upheaval. He appealed to what he later called the "silent majority" of socially conservative Americans who disliked the hippie counterculture and the anti-war demonstrators. Agnew became an increasingly vocal critic of these groups, solidifying Nixon's position with the right.
In a three-way race between Nixon, Humphrey, and independent candidate Alabama Governor George Wallace, Nixon defeated Humphrey by nearly 500,000 votes (seven-tenths of a percentage point), with 301 electoral votes to 191 for Humphrey and 46 for Wallace. In his victory speech, Nixon pledged that his administration would try to bring the divided nation together. Nixon said: "I have received a very gracious message from the Vice President, congratulating me for winning the election. I congratulated him for his gallant and courageous fight against great odds. I also told him that I know exactly how he felt. I know how it feels to lose a close one."
Nixon was inaugurated as president on January 20, 1969, sworn in by his onetime political rival, Chief Justice Earl Warren. Pat Nixon held the family Bibles open at Isaiah 2:4, which reads, "They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks." In his inaugural address, which received almost uniformly positive reviews, Nixon remarked that "the greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker" - a phrase that would later be placed on his gravestone.
When Nixon took office, about 300 American soldiers were dying each week in Vietnam, and the war was broadly unpopular in the United States, with violent protests against the war ongoing. The Johnson administration had agreed to suspend bombing in exchange for negotiations without preconditions, but this agreement never fully took force. According to Walter Isaacson, soon after taking office, Nixon had concluded that the Vietnam War could not be won and he was determined to end the war quickly. Conversely, Black argues that Nixon sincerely believed he could intimidate North Vietnam through the "Madman theory". Nixon sought some arrangement which would permit American forces to withdraw, while leaving South Vietnam secure against attack.
Nixon approved a secret bombing campaign of North Vietnamese and allied Khmer Rouge positions in Cambodia in March 1969 (code-named Operation Menu), a policy begun under Johnson. These operations resulted in heavy bombing of Cambodia; by one measurement more bombs were dropped over Cambodia under Johnson and Nixon than the Allies dropped during World War II. In mid-1969, Nixon began efforts to negotiate peace with the North Vietnamese, sending a personal letter to North Vietnamese leaders, and peace talks began in Paris. Initial talks, however, did not result in an agreement. In July 1969, Nixon visited South Vietnam, where he met with his U.S. military commanders and President Nguyen Van Thieu. Amid protests at home demanding an immediate pullout, he implemented a strategy of replacing American troops with Vietnamese troops, known as "Vietnamization". He soon instituted phased U.S. troop withdrawals but authorized incursions into Laos, in part to interrupt the Ho Chi Minh trail, used to supply North Vietnamese forces, that passed through Laos and Cambodia. Nixon announced the ground invasion of Cambodia to the American public on April 30, 1970. His responses to protesters included an impromptu, early morning meeting with them at the Lincoln Memorial on May 9, 1970. Documents uncovered from the Soviet archives after 1991 reveal that the North Vietnamese attempt to overrun Cambodia in 1970 was launched at the explicit request of the Khmer Rouge and negotiated by Pol Pot's then second in command, Nuon Chea. Nixon's campaign promise to curb the war, contrasted with the escalated bombing, led to claims that Nixon had a "credibility gap" on the issue.
In 1971, excerpts from the "Pentagon Papers", which had been leaked by Daniel Ellsberg, were published by The New York Times and The Washington Post. When news of the leak first appeared, Nixon was inclined to do nothing; the Papers, a history of United States' involvement in Vietnam, mostly concerned the lies of prior administrations and contained few real revelations. He was persuaded by Kissinger that the papers were more harmful than they appeared, and the President tried to prevent publication. The Supreme Court eventually ruled for the newspapers.
As U.S. troop withdrawals continued, conscription was reduced and in 1973 ended; the armed forces became all-volunteer. After years of fighting, the Paris Peace Accords were signed at the beginning of 1973. The agreement implemented a cease fire and allowed for the withdrawal of remaining American troops; however, it did not require the 160,000 North Vietnam Army regulars located in the South to withdraw. Once American combat support ended, there was a brief truce, before fighting broke out again, this time without American combat involvement. North Vietnam conquered South Vietnam in 1975
At the time Nixon took office in 1969, inflation was at 4.7 percent—its highest rate since the Korean War. The Great Society had been enacted under Johnson, which, together with the Vietnam War costs, was causing large budget deficits. There was little unemployment, but interest rates were at their highest in a century. Nixon's major economic goal was to reduce inflation; the most obvious means of doing so was to end the war. This could not be accomplished overnight, and the U.S. economy continued to struggle through 1970, contributing to a lackluster Republican performance in the midterm congressional elections (Democrats controlled both Houses of Congress throughout Nixon's presidency). According to political economist Nigel Bowles in his 2011 study of Nixon's economic record, the new president did little to alter Johnson's policies through the first year of his presidency.
After he won reelection, Nixon found inflation returning. He reimposed price controls in June 1973. The price controls became unpopular with the public and businesspeople, who saw powerful labor unions as preferable to the price board bureaucracy. The controls produced food shortages, as meat disappeared from grocery stores and farmers drowned chickens rather than sell them at a loss. Despite the failure to control inflation, controls were slowly ended, and on April 30, 1974, their statutory authorization lapsed.
The Nixon years witnessed the first large-scale integration of public schools in the South. Nixon sought a middle way between the segregationist Wallace and liberal Democrats, whose support of integration was alienating some Southern whites. Hopeful of doing well in the South in 1972, he sought to dispose of desegregation as a political issue before then. Soon after his inauguration, he appointed Vice President Agnew to lead a task force, which worked with local leaders - both white and black - to determine how to integrate local schools. Agnew had little interest in the work, and most of it was done by Labor Secretary George Shultz. Federal aid was available, and a meeting with President Nixon was a possible reward for compliant committees. By September 1970, less than ten percent of black children were attending segregated schools. By 1971, however, tensions over desegregation surfaced in Northern cities, with angry protests over the busing of children to schools outside their neighborhood to achieve racial balance. Nixon opposed busing personally but enforced court orders requiring its use.
In addition to desegregating public schools, Nixon implemented the Philadelphia Plan in 1970—the first significant federal affirmative action program. He also endorsed the Equal Rights Amendment after it passed both houses of Congress in 1972 and went to the states for ratification. Nixon had campaigned as an ERA supporter in 1968, though feminists criticized him for doing little to help the ERA or their cause after his election. Nevertheless, he appointed more women to administration positions than Lyndon Johnson had.
After a nearly decade-long national effort, the United States won the race to land astronauts on the Moon on July 20, 1969, with the flight of Apollo 11. Nixon spoke with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin during their moonwalk. He called the conversation "the most historic phone call ever made from the White House". Nixon, however, was unwilling to keep funding for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) at the high level seen through the 1960s as NASA prepared to send men to the Moon. NASA Administrator Thomas O. Paine drew up ambitious plans for the establishment of a permanent base on the Moon by the end of the 1970s and the launch of a manned expedition to Mars as early as 1981. Nixon, however, rejected both proposals.
Nixon also canceled the Air Force Manned Orbital Laboratory program in 1969, because unmanned spy satellites were shown to be a more cost-effective way to achieve the same reconnaissance objective.
On May 24, 1972, Nixon approved a five-year cooperative program between NASA and the Soviet space program, culminating in the 1975 joint mission of an American Apollo and Soviet Soyuz spacecraft linking in space.
The term Watergate has come to encompass an array of clandestine and often illegal activities undertaken by members of the Nixon administration. Those activities included "dirty tricks" such as bugging the offices of political opponents and people of whom Nixon or his officials were suspicious. Nixon and his close aides ordered harassment of activist groups and political figures, using the FBI, CIA, and the Internal Revenue Service. The activities became known after five men were caught breaking into Democratic party headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 1972. The Washington Post picked up on the story; reporters Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward relied on an informant known as "Deep Throat" - later revealed to be Mark Felt, associate director at the FBI - to link the men to the Nixon administration. Nixon downplayed the scandal as mere politics, calling news articles biased and misleading. A series of revelations made it clear that Nixon aides had committed crimes in attempts to sabotage the Democrats and others, and lied about it. Senior aides such as White House Counsel John Dean and Chief of Staff H. R. Haldeman faced prosecution and when it was over 46 others had been convicted.
In July 1973, White House aide Alexander Butterfield testified that Nixon had a secret taping system that recorded his conversations and phone calls in the Oval Office. These tapes were subpoenaed by Watergate Special Counsel Archibald Cox. Nixon refused to release them, citing executive privilege. With the White House and Cox at loggerheads, Nixon had Cox fired in October in the "Saturday Night Massacre"; he was replaced by Leon Jaworski. In November, Nixon's lawyers revealed that an audio tape of conversations, held in the White House on June 20, 1972, featured an 18½ minute gap. Rose Mary Woods, the President's personal secretary, claimed responsibility for the gap, alleging that she had accidentally wiped the section while transcribing the tape, though her tale was widely mocked. The gap, while not conclusive proof of wrongdoing by the President, cast doubt on Nixon's statement that he had been unaware of the cover-up.
Though Nixon lost much popular support, even from his own party, he rejected accusations of wrongdoing and vowed to stay in office. He insisted that he had made mistakes, but had no prior knowledge of the burglary, did not break any laws, and did not learn of the cover-up until early 1973. On October 10, 1973, Vice President Agnew resigned - unrelated to Watergate - and was convicted on charges of bribery, tax evasion and money laundering during his tenure as Governor of Maryland. Nixon chose Gerald Ford, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives, to replace Agnew.
The legal battle over the tapes continued through early 1974, and in April 1974 Nixon announced the release of 1,200 pages of transcripts of White House conversations between him and his aides. The House Judiciary Committee opened impeachment hearings against the President on May 9, 1974, which were televised on the major TV networks. These hearings culminated in votes for impeachment, the first being 27–11 on July 27, 1974 for obstruction of justice. On July 24, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the full tapes, not just selected transcripts, must be released.
Even with support diminished by the continuing series of revelations, Nixon hoped to win. However, one of the new tapes, recorded soon after the break-in, demonstrated that Nixon had been told of the White House connection to the Watergate burglaries soon after they took place, and had approved plans to thwart the investigation. In a statement accompanying the release of the "Smoking Gun Tape" on August 5, 1974, Nixon accepted blame for misleading the country about when he had been told of the truth behind the Watergate break-in, stating that he had a lapse of memory. He met with Republican congressional leaders soon after, and was told he faced certain impeachment in the House and had, at most, only 15 votes in the Senate to vote for his acquittal - far fewer than the 34 he needed to avoid removal from office.
In light of his loss of political support and the near-certainty of impeachment, Nixon resigned the office of the presidency on August 9, 1974, after addressing the nation on television the previous evening. The resignation speech was delivered from the Oval Office and was carried live on radio and television. Nixon stated that he was resigning for the good of the country and asked the nation to support the new president, Gerald Ford. Nixon went on to review the accomplishments of his presidency, especially in foreign policy. He defended his record as president, quoting from Theodore Roosevelt's 1910 speech Citizenship in a Republic:
Nixon's speech contained no admission of wrongdoing, and was termed "a masterpiece" by Conrad Black, one of his biographers. Black opined that "What was intended to be an unprecedented humiliation for any American president, Nixon converted into a virtual parliamentary acknowledgement of almost blameless insufficiency of legislative support to continue. He left while devoting half his address to a recitation of his accomplishments in office." The initial response from network commentators was generally favorable, with only Roger Mudd of CBS stating that Nixon had evaded the issue, and had not admitted his role in the cover-up.
Following his resignation, the Nixons flew to their home La Casa Pacifica in San Clemente, California. According to his biographer, Aitken, after his resignation, "Nixon was a soul in torment". Congress had funded Nixon's transition costs, including some salary expenses, though reducing the appropriation from $850,000 to $200,000. With some of his staff still with him, Nixon was at his desk by 7 a.m. - with little to do. His former press secretary, Ron Ziegler, sat with him alone for hours each day.
Nixon's resignation had not put an end to the desire among many to see him punished. The Ford White House considered a pardon of Nixon, though it would be unpopular in the country. Nixon, contacted by Ford emissaries, was initially reluctant to accept the pardon, but then agreed to do so. Ford, however, insisted on a statement of contrition; Nixon felt he had not committed any crimes and should not have to issue such a document. Ford eventually agreed, and on September 8, 1974, he granted Nixon a "full, free, and absolute pardon", which ended any possibility of an indictment.
In October 1974, Nixon fell ill with phlebitis. Told by his doctors that he could either be operated on or die, a reluctant Nixon chose surgery, and President Ford visited him in the hospital. Nixon was under subpoena for the trial of three of his former aides - Dean, Haldeman, and John Ehrlichman - and The Washington Post, disbelieving his illness, printed a cartoon showing Nixon with a cast on the "wrong foot". Judge John Sirica excused Nixon's presence despite the defendants' objections. Congress instructed Ford to retain Nixon's presidential papers—beginning a three-decade legal battle over the documents that eventually would be won by the former president and his estate. Nixon was in the hospital when the 1974 midterm elections were held, and Watergate and the pardon were contributing factors to the Republican loss of 43 seats in the House and three in the Senate.
By early 1975, Nixon's health was improving. He maintained an office in a Coast Guard station 300 yards from his home, at first taking a golf cart and later walking the route each day; he mainly worked on his memoirs. He had hoped to wait before writing his memoirs; the fact that his assets were being eaten away by expenses and lawyer fees compelled him to begin work quickly. He was handicapped in this work by the end of his transition allowance in February, which compelled him to part with much of his staff, including Ziegler. In August of that year, he met with British talk-show host and producer David Frost, who paid him $600,000 for a series of sit-down interviews, filmed and aired in 1977. They began on the topic of foreign policy, recounting the leaders he had known, but the most remembered section of the interviews was that on Watergate. Nixon admitted that he had "let down the country" and that "I brought myself down. I gave them a sword and they stuck it in. And they twisted it with relish. And, I guess, if I'd been in their position, I'd have done the same thing." The interviews garnered 45–50 million viewers—becoming the most-watched program of their kind in television history.
Nixon suffered a severe stroke on April 18, 1994, while preparing to eat dinner in his Park Ridge home. A blood clot resulting from his heart condition had formed in his upper heart, broken off, and traveled to his brain. He was taken to New York Hospital–Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan, initially alert but unable to speak or to move his right arm or leg. Damage to the brain caused swelling (cerebral edema), and Nixon slipped into a deep coma. He died at 9:08 p.m. on April 22, 1994, with his daughters at his bedside. He was 81 years old.
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