I was a child in the 1950's. Both of my parents were Republicans, and though I didn't know what that meant, I did see that kindly, grandfatherly old President on the TV (my father ALWAYS watched the news), and I came to know Richard Milhaus Nixon. I voted for him in my first election (I had to wait until 1972, which irritated me to no end ... they lowered the voting age, that year). I was certain that America was in good hands, afterwards.
Several years later ... after Watergate and the resignation of Mr. Nixon ... I wrote to him. To my shock, I got a reply. This is what he said:
"Dear Mr. Miller,
This is just a note to tell you how much Mrs. Nixon and appreciated your letter of May 29th.
We will always be appreciative of your expression of friendship, and we join in sending our
very best wishes.
The year was 1979. For about two years, afterwards, I corresponded with him, and he was always a gentleman, and never failed to give me his best wishes for my wife and children.
Much of the material in those letters were to be found in his Memoirs, and were fascinating.
For example, did you know that Richard Nixon was the last President to escape his Secret Service detail and go for a walk in Washington? He went below the White House, to a tunnel that connected with the old executive building, which he knew well. The Secret Service went insane, and found him, alone, talking with a group of college students at the Lincoln Memorial. The tunnel is still there, but the President no longer can get through several locked gates!
In the late 1950's, Vice-President Nixon was almost killed when he came to speak at the University in Caracas, Venezuela. Communists were in the front of the rest of the students, and Nixon argued with them, even getting out of the car, calling them cowards. Suddenly, a mob came out of some side-streets and the Secret Service man ... note that I said "Man" (he had one guard on this trip) ... dragged him into the car, after the "students" charged after the limousine. They stopped the car, several blocks away. When his security man realized they were trying to turn the car over, he pulled his weapon and said, "Let's get some of the sons of b******!" Nixon stopped him. Had a gun gone off, everyone would have been dead. Nixon came home to a hero's welcome.
Concerning Watergate, he told me that ... for one moment ... he ceased being President, and became the defender of his "friends" (who had betrayed him). He was forced to resign, much later, as a result.
He believed that he had been robbed of the 1960 Election by Cook County, Illinois, but that he admired President Kennedy greatly. They tried to do the same thing to him in 1972, but the American people were not going to elect a full-blown communist (at least, in 1972).
Nixon was a Navy veteran of WWII, and worked on an island where the front-line guys would come for medical care, and relax for a couple of weeks. There's a famous picture in his memoirs showing a very young Nixon standing in front of a sign that reads, "Nick's Hamburger Stand". Anyone who wanted a hamburger or a piece of apple pie got it!
One of the most drastic things he told me ... and this isn't in his memoirs ... was about the 1973 war between Israel and Syria, sometimes called the "Syrian Tank Crisis". Nixon received information that the Syrian tanks (700 of them) were manned by Russian soldiers. He did NOT contact the Soviet government. He started to send about half of America's military towards the Middle East. In the meantime, the Russian-crewed Syrian tanks were taking heavy damage from the Israelis. The Russians turned around, and headed back to Syria. That was a very good idea, given the circumstances ...
These are just a few tidbits from his letters to me. I hope that Mr. Nixon, in future years, will be remembered for things other than Watergate. He did win the Vietnam War, after. Congress subsequently lost it ...