Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, California, on January 9, 1913. His parents were poor, and his early life was one of hard work and study. He was a gifted student, finishing second in his class at Whittier College (1934) in Whittier, California, and third in his class at Duke University Law School (1937). Unable to find a position with a Wall Street (New York City) law firm after his graduation, Nixon returned to Whittier to practice. There he met Thelma Catherine (Pat) Ryan (1912-93), whom he married in 1940. Nixon enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1942 and served as a supply officer in the South Pacific during World War II. He left the service as a lieutenant commander.

Back in Whittier in 1946, Nixon was persuaded by a group of southern California Republicans to challenge Democratic congressman Jerry Voorhis (1901-84). Nixon campaigned vigorously, tabbed the liberal Voorhis as a dangerous left-winger, and won by 16,000 votes. In 1948 and 1949 Nixon achieved a national reputation in the U.S. House of Representatives as a member of the Committee on Un-American Activities during its investigation of what became known as the Hiss case. In 1950 Nixon ran for the U.S. Senate against Congresswoman Helen Gahagan Douglas (1900-80), whom he labeled th e for what he alleged to be her pro-Communist sympathies. He won the election, but his campaign tactics were widely criticized.


In 1952 the Republicans nominated Nixon to be the running mate of presidential candidate Dwight D. Eisenhower. When it was disclosed that as a senator Nixon had accepted an $18,000 fund fo r from California businessmen, he was nearly dropped from the Republican ticket. Nixon's televised self-defense, called th e speech because of a sentimental reference to his dog Checkers, saved his political life. As vice-president, Nixon emerged as a vigorous Republican spokesman during the Eisenhower years, campaigning in a cut-and-thrust style that contrasted with Eisenhower's nonpartisan aloofness. In nonelection years, Nixon toured the country trying to bolster Republican party finances and spirit. He also developed foreign affairs credentials by visiting numerous other countries, including the Soviet Union, where an imprompt u with Nikita S. Khrushchev made worldwide headlines in July 1959. As undisputed party leader at the end of Eisenhower's second term, Nixon easily won the presidential nomination in 1960. Against the articulate, wealthy, and politically well-connected John F. Kennedy, however, the Nixon edge in experience and prominence melted away. Kennedy won with a narrow popular-vote margin of 113,000 votes out of 68.8 million cast.

Returning to California, Nixon sought to revitalize his political career by challenging Governor Edmund G. (Pat) Brown (1905- ) in the 1962 gubernatorial race. Defeated, Nixon angrily announced his withdrawal from active politics. He moved to New York City and began a lucrative law practice. He continued, however, to speak out on foreign policy issues, address Republican fund rallies, and maintain his strong influence in the party. By 1968 he was poised again to try for the presidency, this time as a more seasoned and temperat e With Spiro T. Agnew as the vice-presidential candidate, the Republican campaign made skillful use of television, benefited from national dissatisfaction with the war in Vietnam, and profited from factional divisions in the Democratic camp. Nixon defeated Hubert H. Humphrey with a popular-vote majority of about 500,000 votes.


At the pinnacle in 1969, President Nixon organized the White House to protect his energy and time. He left routine matters and most administrative affairs to such powerful aides as H. R. Haldeman (1926- ), John Ehrlichman (1925- ) and Charles Colson (1931- ). This allowed him time for what had become his absorbing interest: international affairs. With Henry A. Kissinger as his most trusted foreign policy adviser, Nixon redefined the American role in the world, suggesting limits to U.S. resources and commitments . he declared in his inaugural address , He ordered a gradual withdrawal of the 500,000 U.S. troops in South Vietnam. The withdrawal took four years, however, during which the war raged and U.S. casualties mounted. Nixon authorized a U.S. incursion into Cambodia in 1970 and the bombing of Hanoi and the mining of Haiphong Harbor in 1972. These actions were unpopular, but he credited them with helping to bring about a negotiated settlement by