Richard 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 parents were in some ways opposites; Frank Nixon was as argumentative as Hannah Nixon was sweet-tempered. His mother was a Quaker, 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, Donald, Arthur, and Edward. 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 Nixon suffered two great personal losses as a young man: the deaths of his younger brother Arthur after a short illness and his older brother Harold after a long one. Richard's younger brother Arthur died in 1925. Richard's older brother Harold was diagnosed with tuberculosis and died of the disease in 1933. 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, then attended 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. He played junior varsity football, and rarely missed a practice, even though he was rarely used in games, and 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's 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. 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. Nixon found time for a large number of extracurricular activities, becoming a champion debater and gaining a reputation as a hard worker.
After his graduation from Whittier in 1934, Nixon received a full scholarship to attend Duke University School of Law, where he was elected president of the Duke Bar Association 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.
In 1940, he married Patricia Ryan; they had two daughters, Patricia (Tricia) and Julie. Julie married David Eisenhower, one of Dwight Eisenhower's grandsons, in 1968, and Tricia married Edward Cox in the Rose Garden of the White House in 1971. Nixon was a good piano player and liked to relax with family and friends around the piano, inviting guests to sing along with him to popular songs. He was also a knowledgeable fan of football and baseball, so much so that he often used sports metaphors when talking about important political and diplomatic issues.
Following Pearl Harbor, Nixon enlisted in the Navy, serving as a Navy lieutenant commander in the Pacific. His naval career ended with the war and in 1945 he was looking for his next job just as a group of prominent Southern California Republicans were looking for a suitable congressional candidate.
Nixon's political career began in 1947 when he was elected to the House of Representatives, after campaigning strongly as an anti-communist. By 1952, he had moved to the Senate and was chosen by Dwight Eisenhower to be his running mate in the presidential election. Nixon served as Vice-President for eight years under Eisenhower. At one stage, after Eisenhower had a stroke, Nixon assumed a more active role, but he was never close to Eisenhower. Nixon made a bid for President, securing the Republican Party nomination but was narrowly defeated by John F. Kennedy in 1960. In 1962, Nixon again faced defeat when he ran unsuccessfully for Governor of California. It was then that he made one of his famous comments "you won't have Nixon to kick around anymore."
Richard Nixon's presidential defeat in 1960 and gubernatorial defeat in 1962 gave him the reputation of a loser. He spent six years shaking it before he could win the 1968 Republican presidential nomination. During that time, he joined a prestigious law firm in New York City, became financially well off, and argued a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. Nixon played a marginal role in presidential politics in 1964, introducing his party's nominee at the GOP convention in San Francisco.
In 1968, he again won his party's nomination, and went on to defeat Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey and third-party candidate George C. Wallace. His accomplishments while in office included revenue sharing, the end of the draft, new anticrime laws, and a broad environmental program. As he had promised, he appointed Justices of conservative philosophy to the Supreme Court. One of the most dramatic events of his first term occurred in 1969, when American astronauts made the first moon landing.
Some of his most acclaimed achievements came in his quest for world stability. During visits in 1972 to Beijing and Moscow, he reduced tensions with China and the U.S.S.R. His summit meetings with Russian leader Leonid I. Brezhnev produced a treaty to limit strategic nuclear weapons. In January 1973, he announced an accord with North Viet Nam to end American involvement in Indochina. In 1974, his Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, negotiated disengagement agreements between Israel and its opponents, Egypt and Syria.
In his 1972 bid for office, Nixon defeated Democratic candidate George McGovern by one of the widest margins on record. Within a few months, his administration was embattled over the so-called "Watergate" scandal, stemming from a break-in at the offices of the Democratic National Committee during the 1972 campaign. The break-in was traced to officials of the Committee to Re-elect the President. A number of administration officials resigned; some were later convicted of offenses connected with efforts to cover up the affair. Nixon denied any personal involvement, but the courts forced him to yield tape recordings which indicated that he had, in fact, tried to divert the investigation.
As a result of unrelated scandals in Maryland, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew resigned in 1973. Nixon nominated, and Congress approved, House Minority Leader Gerald R. Ford as Vice President. Faced with what seemed almost certain impeachment, Nixon announced on August 8, 1974, that he would resign the next day to begin "that process of healing which is so desperately needed in America."