Richard Nixon (1913 - 1994)
Nixon was the most controversial politician
of his generation and has remained a source of intrigue and puzzlement for
scholars and the public.
The second of five sons of a devout Quaker family,
Nixon was third in his class of twenty-five at Duke Law School. He wanted
to be an FBI agent but instead became a local California attorney and later
joined the Office of Price Administration and the navy.
He defeated Jerry Voorhis, a prominent New Deal
Democratic congressman, in 1946 and won national fame for his work on the
Hiss case. His 1950 campaign against Helen Gahagan Douglas was dominated by
his red-baiting charges against her.
Thomas Dewey promoted Nixon for the vice presidency
in 1952. His 1962 defeat for the California governorship was generally considered
to have marked the end of his political career, so his recovery to win the
1968 GOP nomination was nearly miraculous.
Quote: You wont
have Nixon to kick around anymore, because gentlemen, this is my last press
conference. (Press conference after election loss, 1962)
REFERENCES: Joan Hoff Wilson, Nixon
Reconsidered (1994); Rachel Barron, Richard Nixon (1999).
Henry Kissinger (1923 )
At the height of his power in the 1970s, Kissinger
exercised more influence over American foreign policy than any secretary of
state since George Marshall, and perhaps since William Seward.
Born in southern Germany, the son of a high
school teacher, Heinz Kissinger (his original name) was frequently beaten
up by anti-Semitic gangs. His father lost his job, and the family was forced
to flee to the United States in 1938. Many writers have seen a connection
between the instability of Kissingers youth and his strong pursuit
of order and stability in international relations.
His family never fully assimilated to America,
and Kissinger retained his thick German accent throughout his life. In the
U.S. Army he became a translator and eventually administered a small district
in occupied Germany.
His book Nuclear Weapons
and Foreign Policy (1957), which advocated the use of limited nuclear
weapons, brought him to the attention of Nelson Rockefeller and began his
career as an influential foreign-policy and defense theorist.
Quote: The deepest
international conflict in the world today is not between us and the Soviet
Union, but between the Soviet Union and Communist China.Therefore, one
of the positive prospects in the current situation is that, whatever the basic
intentions of Soviet leaders, confronted with the prospect of a China growing
in strengththey may want a period of détente in the West.
REFERENCE: Walter Isaacson, Kissinger:
A Biography (1993).
Sam Ervin (1896 - 1985)
Ervin was the North Carolina senator who gained
fame for heading the Senate Watergate investigations.
After growing up in rural North Carolina, Ervin
was wounded and decorated for valor in World War I and earned a Harvard law
degree in 1922. He helped defeat a North Carolina law banning the teaching
of evolution. He was also a longtime judge and U.S. congressman.
Ervin was considered the Senates most
noted authority on the U.S. Constitution and was a strong advocate of civil
liberties and legal rights for the indigent.
His bobbing eyebrows, thick jowls, and down-home
sense of humor made him a popular hero during the Watergate hearings. He had
a vast fund of quotations from the Bible, Shakespeare, English history, and
American constitutional history at his command and often used them to enliven
the proceedings. Although he always called himself a simple country
lawyer, he was in fact a highly learned and skilled jurist.
Quote: As long
as I have a mind to think, a tongue to speak, and a heart to love my country,
I shall deny that the Constitution confers any autocratic power on the President,
or authorizes him to convert George Washingtons America into Caesars
Rome.When all is said, the only sure antidote for future Watergates
is understanding of fundamental principles and intellectual and moral integrity
in the men and women who achieve or are entrusted with governmental or political
power. (Report of Senate Watergate Committee, 1974)
REFERENCE: Dick Dabney, A
Good Man: The Life of Sam Ervin (1976).