Former President Richard Nixon made political history when he resigned from his position on August 9th 1974. The Watergate scandal may be how he was best remembered, but there is a lot more to this political figure who started his career at the relatively young age of 39. After he had successfully made the move from the House to the Senate, he then became the Republican nominee for Vice President.
Here are a few things that you may not know about Nixon that are far more interesting than his unfortunate scandal.
He Once Had a Job as a Carnival Barker
The Nixon family spent time in Arizona due to the health of the oldest son, Harold, who had tuberculosis. During their time there, Richard spent time working at a local carnival, the Frontier Days Rodeo in Prescott operating the Wheel of Fortune game.
His Parents Owned a Lemon Grove in Yorba Linda, CA
Nixon’s grandfather had moved to California from Indian in hopes of growing an orange grove. But when the fruit farm turned out to produce lemons the Nixon family decided to open up a general store in Whittier, CA known as Nixon’s Market.
He was into Music and Acting
Richard Nixon’s family were all devout Quakers who attended church four times a week. Young Richard played piano for Sunday School. And when he returned to the City of Whittier after attending law school, he also returned to work at the church’s Sunday School when he was not busy working as a divorce lawyer. Along with playing the piano, Nixon also participated in shows performed by the local community theater. He met his future wife, Pat Ryan, while he was playing a fictional attorney in Night of January 16th, a play written by Ayn Rand.
His Debating Career All Started with Bugs
Nixon was part of his 7th grade boys vs. girls debate team and the debate in question was the relative merits of insects. Nixon asked his uncle, who was an entomologist for a list of positive things about insects, which helped the boy’s team to convince the judges that “Insects are more beneficial than harmful”. However, he would later find that the bugs weren’t so great. While he was in the South Pacific with the Navy, he said the only things that bothered him, despite being under fire, were “lack of sleep and the centipedes”.
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.
He Worked his Way through College Like the Rest of Us
While he attended Whittier College in his home town, he worked at Nixon’s Market. After he graduated, Nixon attended Duke University Law School on a scholarship and lived “in a wooden patch a mile and a half from campus” along with three other shack mates.
He had a Chance to Attend Harvard
Richard had a chance to attend Harvard University, but he 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 family.
His Role in Politics Began with Answering a Newspaper Ad
In 1945, a Republican group was looking for someone to run against a popular Congressman in California. They placed an ad in the paper which was seen by a family friend of the Nixon’s, who called Richard up and convinced him to give it a shot.
He Used the Comedy Sketch 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.
He Almost Didn’t Get the Job that Caused him to get National Attention
Once he got to Congress, Nixon was offered a spot on the House Un-American Activities Committee, which had a very bad reputation. He hesitated before accepting, but his role in sorting out the Algar Hiss scandal brought him to the national stage, and led the GOP to encourage him to run for Senate, which he did successfully.
The Checkers Speech was intended to 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 to be 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 only the reference to his pet dog.