|Famous For: 37th President of the United States||Currently Known For: Former President of the United States|
Currently Known For Former President of the United States
"The finest steel has to go through the hottest fire." In terms of controversial presidents, there might not be one more controversial than Richard Nixon. No other president has resigned from office besides Nixon, who did so on the heels of the Watergate scandal in 1974. Nixon had been the vice president beforehand, serving from 1953 to 1961 before winning the 1968 election.
Even before becoming president, Nixon was well known for his time as vice president and his unsuccessful campaign against the much more charismatic John F. Kennedy. After Kennedy’s death and the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, Nixon ran against Hubert H. Humphrey in 1968, winning by a wide margin of 301 electoral votes to 191 (independent George Wallace received 46).
Nixon might have lost just about all of his fans while president, and the support of other politicians, but it doesn’t change the fact that he was highly intelligent. Pop culture portrayals of Nixon these days are less than flattering, showing Nixon as a shady crook, and a lot of satirical humor has been done on his presidency. People tend to forget that Nixon did do some important things while in office, though.
For example, Nixon pulled the Americans out of the Vietnam War and started a solid diplomatic relationship with China. He also put a stop to segregation in schools and started the Environmental Protection Agency. Had Watergate not happened, history might remember Nixon a bit more fondly than it actually does.
So looking back at his life, what was it that made Nixon so smart? While growing up in a lower class family, Nixon excelled in school and often ran for student politics, and even finished third in his graduating class. He then attended Whittier College despite the fact that he received a grant to attend Harvard, but wanted to be closer to his family. In 1934, Nixon would graduate toward the head of his class and received a scholarship to attend the prestigious Duke University School of Law.
Once again, Nixon would finish in the top five of his class, proving that his intelligence was high no matter the level of education. While at Duke, Nixon was also the president of the Duke Bar Association, which helped him land a job at the FBI which he unfortunately never got due to late budget cuts. With the FBI out of the picture, Nixon went into law, which led into World War II and then a career in politics.
When evaluating the IQs of each president in 2006, Dean Keith Simonton said that Nixon was highly intelligent, giving him an IQ score of 132.6. CNN had given him an even higher score of 143. A lot of that has to do with Nixon’s high vocabulary and the fact that he succeeded in every facet of his career, including his education, even if he had a lost presidential election and a presidency that ended in resignation.
The IQ rankings would have Nixon at 23rd overall, though he didn’t reveal an exact IQ test score. For those that have met him, though, they knew that Nixon was a man of intense focus and intelligence that did a lot for the country, even if it all came crashing down. The fact that his presidency ended the way it did has people tend to think that he wasn’t very smart.
Dwight D. Eisenhower said of Nixon that he is “one man, so intimately and thoroughly known to me, that without any hesitation I can personally vouch for his ability, his sense of duty, his sharpness of mind, and his wealth of wisdom.” Eric Hoffer added that the legend of Nixon was a tragic one, as he was “A man of unsurpassed courage and outstanding intelligence but without vision. An opportunist who missed his great opportunity.”
Was Nixon a liar and a cheat at the end of the day? Sure, but he did have some world changing views for the better. Nixon was a big proponent of gender and racial equality, while lowering the voting age to 18. He also believed that everyone should have an income and access to healthcare, putting implements into place so that everyone had them. Even though he was a Republican, Nixoncare was very much a thing that got lost in time because of Obamacare.
After his presidency, Nixon was pardoned for his actions in the Watergate scandal by Gerald R. Ford, He knew that he wasn’t popular amongst the masses, but still tried to get back into the public eye. “We will see it through,” he said in his diary. “We’ve had tough times before and we can take the tougher ones that we will have to go through now.”
Nixon spent much of his later years as a statesman and an author, writing many books both before and after his presidency. His last came in 1994, called “Beyond Peace”. He finished the book just two weeks before he passed away on April 22, 1994 at the age of 81, and it was his life, not his death, that was celebrated by so many. In the 1970s, that would have been a hard thing to imagine, but it was his intelligence that knew how to get back in people's’ good graces.