Skip to main content
Month Day
January 09

Richard M. Nixon is born

Richard Milhous Nixon, 37th president of the United States, is born on January 9, 1913 in California.

The son of Quaker parents, Nixon grew up in the southern California city of Yorba Linda. Early on he proved himself to be a stellar student, attending Whittier College and graduating from Duke University Law School with honors. Nixon then joined the Navy and served during World War II as a lieutenant commander in the Pacific theater. After the war, he gravitated toward Republican politics, joining the post-war anti-communist crusade.

In 1950, Nixon ran against Democrat Helen Gahagan Douglas for a seat in the House of Representatives for California, earning the less-than-complimentary nickname Tricky Dick during the campaign for his ruthless red-baiting of his opponent, including alleging that Douglas was pink down to her panties. He won and gained national attention when, as a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), Nixon relentlessly grilled Alger Hiss, a Roosevelt New Deal liberal and former secretary general of the United Nations, at a hearing regarding allegations that Hiss facilitated communist infiltration of the U.S. government. Hiss, legally immune from espionage charges, was later convicted of perjury. The conviction, despite Hiss’ denial of any wrongdoing, equaled an admission of guilt in the eyes of hard-line anti-communists. Largely due to his record of relentlessness in combating communism, Nixon earned the vice-presidential spot on the Republican ticket with Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952.

READ MORE: 10 Things You May Not Know About Richard Nixon

Early on in his career, Nixon was shadowed by allegations of accepting inappropriate campaign funding from big business and the Mafia. During his 1952 vice-presidential campaign, Nixon tried to dispel those accusations in what became known as the Checkers speech. The name was derived from a dog, named Checkers, that was given to his daughter by a corporate supporter. Playing on sentiment for his little girl, Nixon adamantly vowed to keep the dog. Americans charmed by Nixon’s heart-warming, seemingly old-fashioned values helped vote the Eisenhower-Nixon ticket into the White House.

On the whole, though, Nixon did not owe his success in politics to personality or charm; in fact, some staunch supporters described him as cold, aloof, crude, arrogant and paranoid. Even Eisenhower claimed that his vice president would never win the presidency because the people don’t like him. In 1968, Nixon proved his former boss wrong, but left the office in disgrace in 1974.

As president, Nixon engaged a group of men whose sole mission involved plotting ways to discredit his political opponents. In 1972, this group, known as The Plumbers, was caught burglarizing the Democratic National Committee Headquarters located in the Watergate Hotel. Whether Nixon authorized the burglary is not known, but he did attempt to cover up the crime, using the CIA to derail the FBI’s investigation of the burglary and other illegal activities committed by his aides and political cronies. The press gradually uncovered details behind the burglary, including the existence of a secret slush fund used to finance the operation, collected and managed by campaign officials and Nixon’s attorney general.

In 1973, the Senate established the Select Presidential Committee to investigate what had become known as the Watergate affair. During the investigation, an aide revealed the existence of recordings of Nixon’s Oval Office conversations. Armed with damning testimony including Nixon’s own statements on tape, Congress began the official impeachment process; in 1974, before it was completed, Nixon resigned. His successor, Gerald R. Ford, took the controversial step of pardoning Nixon.

The Watergate scandal has understandably overshadowed Nixon’s achievements while in office. His legacy includes affirmative action, welfare reform and desperately needed pollution-control measures. During Nixon’s ecologically friendly presidency, Congress passed the National Environmental Policy Act, which created the Environmental Protection Agency, and amended the Clean Air Act. Congress also passed the Clean Water Act in 1972 and followed with the Endangered Species Act in 1973. On the foreign-affairs front, Nixon took bold steps toward resuming diplomatic relations with China and the Soviet Union, becoming the first president to visit either country since the beginning of the Cold War. In his later years, subsequent presidents consulted Nixon for his expertise in international affairs.

READ MORE: How Nixon Became the Unlikely Champion of the Endangered Species Act

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us! HISTORY reviews and updates its content regularly to ensure it is complete and accurate.


Los Angeles Lakers' record winning streak ends

On January, 9, 1972, the longest winning streak in major professional sports is snapped at 33 games when the Milwaukee Bucks beat the Los Angeles Lakers, 120-104. A 39-point performance by the Bucks’ Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hands the Lakers their first loss since October 31. more

Apple launches iTunes, revolutionizing how people consume music

On January 9, 2001, Apple launches iTunes, a media player that revolutionized the way people consumed digital media. Bill Kincaid and Jeff Robbin, two former Apple employees, developed an MP3 player called SoundJam MP in the late 1990s. In 2000, Apple re-hired them and their more

One of the “Hillside Stranglers” sentenced to life

Angelo Buono, one of the Hillside Stranglers, is sentenced to life in prison for his role in the rape, torture, and murder of 10 young women in Los Angeles. Buono’s cousin and partner in crime, Kenneth Bianchi, testified against Buono to escape the death penalty. Buono, a more

On this day in 1942, after sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus sights a Bahamian island, believing he has reached East Asia. His expedition went ashore the same day and claimed the land for Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain, who sponsored his attempt to find a western ocean route to China, India, and the fabled gold and spice islands of Asia. Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy, in 1451. Little is known of his early life, but he worked as a seaman and then a maritime entrepreneur. He became obsessed with the possibility of pioneering a western sea route to Cathay (China), India, and the gold and spice islands of Asia. At the time, Europeans knew no direct sea route to southern Asia, and the route via Egypt and the Red Sea was closed to Europeans by the Ottoman Empire, as were many land routes. Contrary to popular legend, educated Europeans of Columbus' day did believe that the world was round, as argued by St. Isidore in the seventh century. However, Columbus, and most others, underestimated the world's size, calculating that East Asia must lie approximately where North America sits on the globe (they did not yet know that the Pacific Ocean existed).

Columbus mistakes manatees for mermaids

On January 9, 1493, explorer Christopher Columbus, sailing near what is now the Dominican Republic, sees three “mermaids”—in reality manatees—and describes them as “not half as beautiful as they are painted.” Six months earlier, Columbus (1451-1506) set off from Spain across the more

Steve Jobs debuts the iPhone

On January 9, 2007, Apple Inc. CEO Steve Jobs unveils the iPhone—a touchscreen mobile phone with an iPod, camera and Web-browsing capabilities, among other features—at the Macworld convention in San Francisco. Jobs, dressed in his customary jeans and black mock turtleneck, called more

First modern circus is staged

Englishman Philip Astley stages the first modern circus in London. Trick riders, acrobats, clowns, trained animals, and other familiar components of the circus have existed throughout recorded history, but it was not until the late 18th century that the modern spectacle of the more

United States invades Luzon in Philippines

Gen. Douglas MacArthur and the American 6th Army land on the Lingayen Gulf of Luzon, another step in the capture of the Philippine Islands from the Japanese. The Japanese controlled the Philippines from May 1942, when the defeat of American forces led to General MacArthur’s more

Record cold and snow decimates cattle herds

On one of the worst days of the “worst winter in the West,” nearly an inch of snow falls every hour for 16 hours, impeding the ability of already starving cattle to find food. The plains ranchers had seen hard winters before, but they had survived because their cattle had been more

Pop luminaries gather at the U.N. for the Music for UNICEF concert

In an effort to call attention to the poverty, malnutrition and lack of access to quality education affecting millions of children throughout the developing world, the United Nations proclaimed 1979 the “International Year of the Child.” To publicize the proclamation and raise more

Virginia Woolf buys a house in Bloomsbury

On January 9, 1924, Virginia Woolf and her husband buy a house at 52 Tavistock Square, in the Bloomsbury district of London near the British Museum. Woolf had been associated with the district since 1902, when she took a house in the area with her three siblings after their more

Sylvester Stallone starts filming "Rocky"

The classic rags-to-riches story got a macho spin in the Oscar-winning Rocky, which was written by its star, Sylvester Stallone, and began filming on January 9, 1976. Stallone had his own rags-to-riches tale: Born in the gritty Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of New York City, he was more

Fire breaks out on former RMS Queen Elizabeth

On January 9, 1972, the ship Seawise University (formerly the RMS Queen Elizabeth) sinks in Hong Kong Harbor despite a massive firefighting effort over two days. The Queen Elizabeth, named after the wife of King George VI, was launched on September 27, 1938; at the time, it was more

President Truman warns of Cold War dangers

In his 1952 State of the Union address, President Harry S. Truman warns Americans that they are “moving through a perilous time,” and calls for vigorous action to meet the communist threat. Though Truman’s popularity had nose-dived during the previous 18 months because of more

“Star of the West” is fired upon

On January 9, 1861, a Union merchant ship, the Star of the West, is fired upon as it tries to deliver supplies to Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, South Carolina. This incident was the first time shots were exchanged between North and South, although it did not trigger the Civil more

Thomas Paine publishes "Common Sense"

On January 9, 1776, writer Thomas Paine publishes his pamphlet “Common Sense,” setting forth his arguments in favor of American independence.  Although little used today, pamphlets were an important medium for the spread of ideas in the 16th through 19th centuries. Originally more