Birthplace: Albemarle County, Va.
Thomas Jefferson was born on April 13 (April 2, old style), 1743,
at Shadwell in Goochland (now Albemarle) County, Va. A William and
Mary graduate, he studied law, but from the start showed an
interest in science and philosophy. His literary skill and
political clarity brought him to the forefront of the
revolutionary movement in Virginia. As delegate to the Continental
Congress, he drafted the Declaration of Independence. In 1776, he
entered the Virginia House of Delegates and initiated a
comprehensive reform program for the abolition of feudal survivals
in land tenure and the separation of church and state.
In 1779, he became governor, but constitutional limitations on his
power, combined with his own lack of executive energy, caused an
unsatisfactory administration, culminating in Jefferson's virtual
abdication when the British invaded Virginia in 1781. He retired
to his beautiful home at Monticello, Va., to his family. His wife,
Martha Wayles Skelton, whom he married in 1772, died in 1782.
Jefferson's Notes on Virginia (1784-85) illustrate his
many-faceted interests, his limitless intellectual curiosity, his
deep faith in agrarian democracy. Sent to Congress in 1783, he
helped lay down the decimal system and drafted basic reports on
the organization of the western lands. In 1785 he was appointed
minister to France, where the Anglo-Saxon liberalism he had drawn
from John Locke, the British philosopher, was stimulated by
contact with the thought that would soon ferment in the French
Revolution. In 1789, Washington appointed him Secretary of State.
While favoring the Constitution and a strengthened central
government, Jefferson came to believe that Hamilton contemplated
the establishment of a monarchy. Growing differences resulted in
Jefferson's resignation on Dec. 31, 1793.
Elected vice president in 1796, Jefferson continued to serve as
spiritual leader of the opposition to Federalism, particularly to
the repressive Alien and Sedngs from both Radicals and Peace
Democrats that at one time seemed to threaten Lincoln's
re-election. He was re-elected in 1864, defeating Gen. George B.
McClellan, the Democratic candidate. His inaugural address urged
leniency toward the South: With malice toward none, with
charity for all . . . let us strive on to finish the work we are
in; to bind up the nation's wounds . . . This policy aroused
growing opposition on the part of the Republican Radicals, but
before the matter could be put to the test, Lincoln was shot by
the actor John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater, Washington, on
April 14, 1865. He died the next morning.
Lincoln's marriage to Mary Todd in 1842 was often unhappy and
turbulent, in part because of his wife's pronounced instability.
Theodore Roosevelt ..........................................
New York City, N.Y.
Theodore Roosevelt was born in New York City on Oct. 27, 1858. A
Harvard graduate, he was early interested in ranching, in
politics, and in writing picturesque historical narratives. He was
a Republican member of the New York Assembly in 1882-84, an
unsuccessful candidate for mayor of New York in 1886, a U.S. Civil
Service Commissioner under Benjamin Harrison, Police Commissioner
of New York City in 1895, and Assistant Secretary of the Navy
under McKinley in 1897. He resigned in 1898 to help organize a
volunteer regiment, the Rough Riders, and take a more direct part
in the war with Spain. He was elected governor of New York in 1898
and vice president in 1900, in spite of lack of enthusiasm on the
part of the bosses.
Assuming the presidency of the assassinated McKinley in 1901,
Roosevelt embarked on a wide-ranging program of government reform
and conservation of natural resources. He ordered antitrust suits
against several large corporations, threatened to intervene in the
anthracite coal strike of 1902, which prompted the operators to
accept arbitration, and, in general, championed the rights of the
little man and fought the malefactors of great wealth.
He was also responsible for such progressive legislation as the
Elkins Act of 1901, which outlawed freight rebates by railroads;
the bill establishing the Department of Commerce and Labor; the
Hepburn Act, which gave the I.C.C. greater control over the
railroads; the Meat Inspection Act; and the Pure Food and Drug
In foreign affairs, Roosevelt pursued a strong policy, permitting
the instigation of a revolt in Panama to dispose of Colombian
objections to the Panama Canal and helping to maintain the balance
of power in the East by bringing the Russo-Japanese War to an end,
for which he won the Nobel Peace Prize, the first American to
achieve a Nobel prize in any category. In 1904, he decisively
defeated Alton B. Parker, his conservative Democratic opponent.
Roosevelt's increasing coldness toward his successor, William
Howard Taft, led him to overlook his earlier disclaimer of
third-term ambitions and to re-enter politics. Defeated by the
machine in the Republican convention of 1912, he organized the
Progressive Party (Bull Moose) and polled more votes than Taft,
though the split brought about the election of Woodrow Wilson.
From 1915 on, Roosevelt strongly favored intervention in the
European war. He became deeply embittered at Wilson's refusal to
allow him to raise a volunteer division. He died in Oyster Bay,
N.Y., on Jan. 6, 1919. He was married twice: in 1880 to Alice
Hathaway Lee, who died in 1884, and in 1886 to Edith Kermit Carow.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Birthplace: Hyde Park, N.Y.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was born in Hyde Park, N.Y., on Jan. 30,
1882. A Harvard graduate, he attended Columbia Law School and was
admitted to the New York bar. In 1910, he was elected to the New
York State Senate as a Democrat. Reelected in 1912, he was
appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy by Woodrow Wilson the
next year. In 1920, his radiant personality and his war service
resulted in his nomination for vice president as James M. Cox's
running mate. After his defeat, he returned to law practice in New
York. In August 1921, Roosevelt was stricken with infantile
paralysis while on vacation at Campobello, New Brunswick. After a
long and gallant fight, he recovered partial use of his legs. In
1924 and 1928, he led the fight at the Democratic national
conventions for the nomination of Gov. Alfred E. Smith of New
York, and in 1928 Roosevelt was himself induced to run for
governor of New York. He was elected, and was reelected in 1930.
In 1932, Roosevelt received the Democratic nomination for
president and immediately launched a campaign that brought new
spirit to a weary and discouraged nation. He defeated Hoover by a
wide margin. His first term was characterized by an unfolding of
the New Deal program, with greater benefits for labor, the
farmers, and the unemployed, and the progressive estrangement of
most of the business community.
At an early stage, Roosevelt became aware of the menace to world
peace posed by totalitarian fascism, and from 1937 on he tried to
focus public attention on the trend of events in Europe and Asia.
As a result, he was widely denounced as a warmonger. He was
re-elected in 1936 over Gov. Alfred M. Landon of Kansas by the
overwhelming electoral margin of 523 to 8, and the gathering
international crisis prompted him to run for an unprecedented
third term in 1940. He defeated Wendell L. Willkie.
Roosevelt's program to bring maximum aid to Britain and, after
June 1941, to Russia was opposed, until the Japanese attack on
Pearl Harbor restored national unity. During the war, Roosevelt
shelved the New Deal in the interests of conciliating the business
community, both in order to get full production during the war and
to prepare the way for a united acceptance of the peace
settlements after the war. A series of conferences with Winston
Churchill and Joseph Stalin laid down the bases for the postwar
world. In 1944 he was elected to a fourth term, running against
Gov. Thomas E. Dewey of New York.
On April 12, 1945, Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage at Warm
Springs, Ga., shortly after his return from the Yalta Conference.
His wife, (Anna) Eleanor Roosevelt, whom he married in 1905, was a
woman of great ability who made significant contributions to her
Richard Milhous Nixon .............................................
Birthplace: Yorba Linda, Calif.
Richard Milhous Nixon was born in Yorba Linda, Calif., on Jan. 9,
1913, to Midwestern-bred parents, Francis A. and Hannah Milhous
Nixon, who raised their five sons as Quakers.
Nixon was a high school debater and was undergraduate president at
Whittier College in California, where he was graduated in 1934. As
a scholarship student at Duke University Law School in North
Carolina, he graduated third in his class in 1937.
After five years as a lawyer, Nixon joined the Navy in August
1942. He was an air transport officer in the South Pacific and a
legal officer stateside before his discharge in 1946 as a
Running for Congress in California as a Republican in 1946, Nixon
defeated Rep. Jerry Voorhis. As a member of the House Un-American
Activities Committee, he made a name as an investigator of Alger
Hiss, a former high State Department official, who was later
jailed for perjury. In 1950, Nixon defeated Rep. Helen Gahagan
Douglas, a Democrat, for the Senate. He was criticized for
portraying her as a Communist dupe.
Nixon's anti-Communism ideals, his Western roots, and his youth
figured into his selection in 1952 to run for vice president on
the ticket headed by Dwight D. Eisenhower. Demands for Nixon's
withdrawal followed disclosure that California businessmen had
paid some of his Senate office expenses. His televised rebuttal,
known as the Checkers speech (named for a cocker spaniel
given to the Nixons), brought him support from the public and from
Eisenhower. The ticket won easily in 1952 and again in 1956.
Eisenhower gave Nixon substantive assignments, including missions
to 56 countries. In Moscow in 1959, Nixon won acclaim for his
defense of U.S. interests in an impromptu kitchen debate
with Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev.
Nixon lost the 1960 race for the presidency to John F. Kennedy.
In 1962, Nixon failed in a bid for California's governorship and
seemed to be finished as a national candidate. He became a Wall
Street lawyer, but kept his old party ties and developed new ones
through constant travels to speak for Republicans.
Nixon won the 1968 Republican presidential nomination after a
shrewd primary campaign, then made Gov. Spiro T. Agnew of Maryland
his surprise choice for vice president. In the election, they
edged out the Democratic ticket headed by Vice President Hubert H.
Humphrey by 510,314 votes out of 73,212,065 cast.
Committed to winding down the U.S. role in the Vietnamese War,
Nixon pursued Vietnamization training and equipping South
Vietnamese to do their own fighting. American ground combat forces
in Vietnam fell steadily from 540,000 when Nixon took office to
none in 1973 when the military draft was ended. But there was
heavy continuing use of U.S. air power.
Nixon improved relations with Moscow and reopened the long-closed
door to mainland China with a good-will trip there in February
1972. In May of that year, he visited Moscow and signed agreements
on arms limitation and trade expansion and approved plans for a
joint U.S. Soviet space mission in 1975.
Inflation was a campaign issue for Nixon, but he failed to master
it as president. On Aug. 15, 1971, with unemployment edging up,
Nixon abruptly announced a new economic policy: a 90-day
wage-price freeze, stimulative tax cuts, a temporary 10% tariff,
and spending cuts. A second phase, imposing guidelines on wage,
price, and rent boosts, was announced October 7.
The economy responded in time for the 1972 campaign, in which
Nixon played up his foreign-policy achievements. Played down was
the burglary on June 17, 1972, of Democratic national headquarters
in the Watergate apartment complex in Washington. The Nixon Agnew re-election campaign cost a record $60 million and
swamped the Democratic ticket headed by Senator George McGovern of
South Dakota with a plurality of 17,999,528 out of 77,718,554
votes. Only Massachusetts, with 14 electoral votes, and the
District of Columbia, with 3, went for McGovern.
In January 1973, hints of a cover-up emerged at the trial of six
men found guilty of the Watergate burglary. With a Senate
investigation under way, Nixon announced on April 30 the
resignations of his top aides, H. R. Haldeman and John D.
Ehrlichman, and the dismissal of White House counsel John Dean
III. Dean was the star witness at televised Senate hearings that
exposed both a White House cover-up of Watergate and massive
illegalities in Republican fund-raising in 1972.
The hearings also disclosed that Nixon had routinely tape-recorded
his office meetings and telephone conversations.
On Oct. 10, 1973, Agnew resigned as vice president, then pleaded
no-contest to a negotiated federal charge of evading income taxes
on alleged bribes. Two days later, Nixon nominated the House
minority leader, Rep. Gerald R. Ford of Michigan, as the new vice
president. Congress confirmed Ford on Dec. 6, 1973.
In June 1974, Nixon visited Israel and four Arab nations. Then he
met in Moscow with Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev and reached
preliminary nuclear arms limitation agreements.
But, in the month after his return, Watergate ended the Nixon
regime. On July 24 the Supreme Court ordered Nixon to surrender
subpoenaed tapes. On July 30, the Judiciary Committee referred
three impeachment articles to the full membership. On August 5,
Nixon bowed to the Supreme Court and released tapes showing he
halted an FBI probe of the Watergate burglary six days after it
occurred. It was in effect an admission of obstruction of justice,
and impeachment appeared inevitable.
Nixon resigned on Aug. 9, 1974, the first president ever to do so.
A month later, President Ford issued an unconditional pardon for
any offenses Nixon might have committed as president, thus
forestalling possible prosecution.
In 1940, Nixon married Thelma Catherine (Pat) Ryan. They had two
daughters, Patricia (Tricia) and Julie, who married Dwight David
Eisenhower II, grandson of the former president.
He died on April 22, 1994, in New York City of a massive stroke.