Postal Service Postpones Release of Nixon Stamp

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Plans to honor late President Richard Nixon with a first-class stamp on his birthday, Jan. 9, have hit a snag.

The U.S. Postal Service has decided to delay issuing the new stamp, probably until next April, because of a pending postal rate increase, and now a key congressman opposes a Nixon stamp altogether.

"When Nixon resigned in disgrace, he forfeited his right to be honored on a postage stamp," says Rep. William Clay (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Post Office and Civil Service Committee. "The logic of honoring this disgraced President escapes me."

According to the Washington Post, Clay made the comments to Postmaster General Marvin Runyon in a letter released Wednesday. If Clay successfully blocks the stamp, Nixon would have the dubious distinction of being the only former chief executive excluded from that honor.

So far, postal officials aren't backing down and plan to release the Nixon stamp, according to postal service spokeswoman Terri Bouffiou in Los Angeles. Local politicians were quick to defend the much venerated and vilified Orange County native.

"If Elvis Presley can get on a postage stamp," said state Assemblyman Gil Ferguson (R-Newport Beach), "I think we can let Richard Nixon on one."

Echoing a commonly held opinion of Nixon, Ferguson praised the former President's skill in managing U.S. foreign policy. But regardless of his performance, argued Ferguson, Nixon deserves his own stamp simply by virtue of having served in the nation's highest elected office.

"Even Jimmy Carter deserves a stamp," said Ferguson. "But I'd put a peanut by his, though."

However, some Orange County officials would not discuss Clay's attack on Nixon, who died in April at 81 and is buried at his presidential library in Yorba Linda. Apparently to avoid fueling a postage stamp controversy, officials with the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace declined to comment Wednesday, as did Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach).

Customarily, postal officials will not consider a person for a stamp unless they have been dead for 10 years. However, U.S. Presidents usually are placed on stamps on the birthday that follows death.

But postal officials decided to postpone Nixon's stamp until after his birthday so it would not conflict with a proposed postal stamp increase, postal officials said.

"That just would have been a ridiculous situation," Bouffiou said. "We don't know if the rate change is going to occur Jan. 8 or Jan. 10 or some other time."

Postal officials are still consulting with the Nixon family regarding a suitable portrait for his presidential stamp, Bouffiou said. The Nixon family must approve the final design.

Postal officials will probably release "first day of issue" stamps at a ceremony at the Nixon library, said Bouffiou.

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