Founding Presidents (1789-1829)
- George Washington: The Father of the United States – Lesson
- John Adams: A Stubborn but Dedicated Leader – Lesson
- Thomas Jefferson: The Author of Independence – Lesson
- Founding Presidents: Washington, Adams, and Jefferson – Quiz
- James Madison: The Father of the Constitution – Lesson
- James Monroe: Opposing the Federalists – Lesson
- John Quincy Adams: The Federalists who Abandoned the Party – Lesson
- Founding Presidents: Madison, Monroe, and Adams – Quiz
Civil War Presidents (1829-1869)
- Andrew Jackson: The First Democrat – Lesson
- Martin Van Buren: The Little Magician – Lesson
- Civil War Presidents: Jackson and Van Buren – Quiz
- William Henry Harrison: The Indian-Fighter – Lesson
- John Tyler: The First President to Not Be Elected – Lesson
- James Polk: Young Hickory – Lesson
- Zachary Taylor: Old Rough and Ready – Lesson
- Millard Fillmore: The Last Whig President – Lesson
- Franklin Pierce: A President Ruined by Slavery – Lesson
- Franklin Pierce: A President Ruined by Slavery – Quiz
- James Buchanan: A President for States’ Rights – Lesson
- James Buchanan: A President for States’ Rights – Quiz
- Abraham Lincoln: The Great Emancipator – Lesson
- Abraham Lincoln: The Great Emancipator – Quiz
- Andrew Johnson: The First President to Be Impeached – Lesson
Reconstruction Presidents (1865-1901)
- Ulysses S. Grant: A Friend of Mark Twain – Lesson
- Ulysses S. Grant: A Friend of Mark Twain – Quiz
- Rutherford B. Hayes: The First President to Lose the Popular Vote – Lesson
- Rutherford B. Hayes: The First President to Lose the Popular Vote – Quiz
- James A. Garfield: The Last of the Log Cabin Presidents – Lesson
- James A. Garfield: The Last of the Log Cabin Presidents – Quiz
- Chester A. Arthur: A One Term President – Lesson
- Chester A. Arthur: A One Term President – Quiz
- Grover Cleveland: A President of Principle – Lesson
- Grover Cleveland: A President of Principle – Quiz
- Benjamin Harrison: The Second President in His Family – Lesson
- Benjamin Harrison: The Second President in His Family – Quiz
- William McKinley: The Third Presidential Assassination – Lesson
- William McKinley: The Third Presidential Assassination – Quiz
20th Century Presidents
- Richard Nixon: The Only President to Ever Resign – Lesson
- Richard Nixon: The Only President to Ever Resign – Quiz
- Gerald Ford – America’s First Unelected President – Lesson
- Gerald Ford – America’s First Unelected President – Quiz
- Jimmy Carter – the President Who Promised He’d Never Lie – Lesson
- Jimmy Carter – the President Who Promised He’d Never Lie – Quiz
- Ronald Reagan – The ‘Peace Through Strength’ President – Lesson
- Ronald Reagan – The ‘Peace Through Strength’ President – Quiz
Richard Nixon: The Only President to Ever Resign – Lesson
Vietnam, Chinese and Soviet tensions, and Watergate made his presidency difficult.
The 37th president of the United States is the only commander-in-chief to resign while in office. Richard Milhous Nixon (1913-1994) did not have an easy presidency due to the Vietnam War, as well as strained relations in China and the Soviet Union. While he did accomplish some worthy goals, the Watergate scandal forever haunted his reputation and life.
The Early Years
Born on January 9, 1913, Nixon grew up in a working-class family, which helped shape his political choices and career. In 1937, he earned a law degree from Duke University and then returned to California to begin working as an attorney. When America joined World War II (1939-1945), Nixon enlisted in the Navy and served as a Navy lieutenant commander in the Pacific.
In 1946, after the war, Nixon’s political career began when he won a seat in the House of Representatives for his California district. He made his name as a congressman while he served on the House Un-American Activities Committee and led a controversial investigation of Alger Hiss, an official who was accused of being a spy for the Soviet Union in the 1930s.
In 1952, Dwight D. Eisenhower chose Nixon, who was 39 at the time, to be his vice-presidential running mate. Nixon became the target of a negative campaign that accused him of accepting gifts from industry lobbyists. With a laugh, he said the only gift he ever received was “Checkers,” which was a puppy for his daughter. That “Checkers” speech gained him a lot of support.
Eisenhower and Nixon won the 1952 election and were also re-elected in 1956. For the next term, Nixon wanted to run for the job of president. He got the Republican presidential nomination but lost to John F. Kennedy in the closest election in U.S. history. Nixon blamed the loss on the fact that Kennedy was tanned and good-looking during the first-ever nationally televised presidential election while he had been pale, sweating, and nervous.
His losing streak continued when he ran for governor of California in 1962. Acting the sore loser, he believed his career was over and told reporters, “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore.”
Nixon as President
Six years after losing the governor’s election, Nixon decided to run for president again. He claimed the Republican nomination once again, and in 1968, he beat Democrat Hubert Humphrey, winning the presidency.
His time as president was fraught with problems. The American people were greatly divided over the Vietnam War (1954-1975), and women were marching for equal rights while racial violence was breaking out across the nation.
Nixon’s plan to achieve “peace with honor” in Vietnam was to be accomplished by the “Vietnamization” strategy. This idea would gradually withdraw troops from Vietnam while also training the U.S.-supported South Vietnamese army to be more effective. In 1973, Nixon reached a peace agreement with Communist North Vietnam, and the last American troops left in March of that year.
In 1972, he was able to reduce tensions with China and the Soviet Union, which helped America to communicate with China, especially. Nixon also signed treaties that limited the production of nuclear weapons.
All of his good work would be for naught, though, for many Americans. In 1972, Nixon ran for re-election, but a scandal soon began that ruined his reputation.
Some people linked with his campaign broke into the headquarters of Nixon’s political rivals (the Democratic National Committee) at the Watergate buildings in Washington, D.C.
Several of Nixon’s officials knew of the break-in, but the president denied having known about it. However, the courts forced him to give up tape recordings of his conversations in the Oval Office. The tapes were submitted with 8 1/2 minutes missing, which put Nixon under heavy suspicion.
Because of the scandal, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew resigned in 1973. Nixon then nominated Gerald R. Ford to take the VP position and Congress approved. Nixon knew he was likely facing impeachment, so rather than go through that process, he decided to resign on August 9, 1974. He made that choice so “that process of healing which is so desperately needed in America” could begin, he said. A month after Nixon’s resignation, Ford pardoned him of any wrongdoing, but the damage had been done.
Nixon died from a stroke on April 22, 1994, at the age of 81 in New York City. While many Americans still see him negatively, some others appreciate his accomplishments, which include ending the draft, a broad environmental program, and appointing several judges to the Supreme Court.