More Papers on Nixon’s Career Will Go on View : Research: Documents at presidential library concern his early days in politics and the non-presidential years.
Thousands of long-awaited documents related to former President Richard Nixon’s early political career and his non-presidential years will become available today for researchers and scholars at the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace.
The records, some of which date back 50 years, provide more detail about Nixon’s public life, including his famous “Checkers” speech and the espionage probe of State Department official Alger Hiss that launched the young California congressman out of obscurity in the late 1940s.
“This is an historic occasion for us,” library director John H. Taylor said Wednesday. “We have been a museum for the President and a policy forum to discuss problems and issues. Now we are offering research capabilities. It is that third pillar of the library we are recognizing.”
The collection, unveiled Wednesday during a preview for the news media, contains 19,000 photographs, 1,600 books, 130 films, 900 audiotapes of Nixon’s speeches, and documents that occupy 2,100 feet of shelf space.
Among the records are correspondence with world leaders. There are notes from Nixon’s extensive travels abroad, campaign material and other personal papers that span his years as a congressman, senator and vice president, as well as his post-presidential activities.
There are letters Nixon wrote to his Whittier law firm as a Navy officer during World War II, a set of texts from his alma mater, Whittier College, and original manuscripts of the books he has written since resigning from the presidency in 1974.
“The President is everywhere in this collection,” said Susan Naulty, the library archivist. “He is editing, creating and directing with his fountain pen. You can see his thought development and how he conducted business.”
Naulty said, however, that the collection contains no startling revelations about Nixon’s public life, except that the thousands of records should provide a substantial number of answers to questions about his political career.
Laid out in detail are Nixon’s campaigns against Helen Gahagan Douglas for U.S. Senate in 1950. His unsuccessful 1962 California gubernatorial campaign is there, as well as his campaigns with Dwight D. Eisenhower, and the presidential contest with John F. Kennedy in 1960.
While on the ticket as Eisenhower’s running mate, Nixon gave his famous “Checkers” speech to deny allegations that he was the beneficiary of an $18,000 fund set up by a wealthy businessman. He said he had received a gift after being nominated for vice president, a black and white cocker spaniel that his daughter had named Checkers. The collection includes published news reports that prompted the speech.
Nixon’s observations and warnings about communism are reflected in notes he took as a member of the Herter Committee that toured Europe after World War II to see if the Marshall Plan should be adopted.
Some of those concerns are embodied in his papers and correspondence related to his work for the House Committee on Un-American Activities, which investigated suspected subversion in the U.S. government at the start of the Cold War.
While serving with the committee, Nixon led the investigation of Alger Hiss, a State Department official who was accused of being a Soviet spy. Hiss, who was turned into a symbol of Communist infiltration in the U.S. government, was ultimately convicted of perjury, not espionage.
What emerges from the thousands of documents is a portrait of Nixon as an “extremely attentive and meticulous person,” Naulty said. “There is a freshness to it and a confirmation of the fact that Nixon was extremely dedicated, worked hard and sacrificed substantially.”
Still missing from the subject-title catalogue is the Watergate scandal that led to Nixon’s downfall in 1974. Two years before a Marine helicopter shuttled Nixon from the White House into private life, Congress seized about 44 million pages of presidential papers and 4,000 hours of tapes to preserve them for the Watergate investigation. The National Archives now stores them at the University of Maryland.
Of the current collection at the Nixon library, about a 16th, some 4,000 to 5,000 records, has been sorted and organized for firsthand viewing by scholars and researchers. The slow, painstaking process has taken about 2 1/2 years and is far from finished.
Although the bulk of the documents have yet to be catalogued, Naulty said, the information they contain is still available upon request to scholars, authors, journalists and academics.
Archive administrators will start taking requests for access to the collection today. So far, library officials say, about 20 people, mostly scholars, have applied for access to the collection. Their names were not disclosed.
The opening of the archives is the second major development in about a year at the $21-million facility, which includes the simple wooden farmhouse Nixon’s father built from a kit. Last year, library officials announced plans for a new policy center, The Center for Peace and Freedom, which will operate out of Yorba Linda and Washington.