Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994)
Thirty-seventh President, 1969-1974
Richard Nixon owed his early prominence and election as Dwight Eisenhower's Vice President to his reputation as an anti-Communist militant. By the time he became President in 1968, however, his thinking about relationships between the Communist and free worlds had shifted considerably. As a result, under his leadership, the confrontational strategies that had long dominated this country's response to Communism gave way to a historic détente, marked by American recognition of Communist China and warmer relations with the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, these diplomatic achievements were eventually overshadowed by disclosure of the Watergate scandals a web of illegal activity involving scores of Nixon's advisers. Though never implicated in the original crimes themselves, Nixon did become party to attempts to cover them up. Following irrefutable disclosure of that fact, he became the only President ever to resign from office.