Congress in the Archives will feature monthly staff posts on our blog. Today’s post comes from Center archivist Kristen Wilhelm.
Forty years ago today self proclaimed “ol’ country lawyer” Senator Sam Ervin stepped onto center stage as chairman of the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, better known as the Watergate Committee. Senator Ervin became a household name as an estimated 85% of U.S. households viewed at least some of the hearings broadcast that summer.
Attorney General John Mitchell, shown in the photo, was one of the high-level Nixon administration figures whose testimony was broadcast. For the committee, bringing the hearings directly to the people was vital. As stated in its Final Report: “The full import of the hearings could only be achieved observing the witnesses and hearing their testimony.”
Photograph of Attorney General John Mitchell, 1973, Records of the U.S. Senate
President Dwight D. Eisenhower is lassoed by cowboy star Montie Montana (with permission from the Secret Service) while reviewing the inaugural parade as Vice President Richard M. Nixon and other dignitaries look on on January 20, 1953.
Originally, the parade was meant to escort the President to the White House from the Capitol, but it soon developed into something more. Jefferson began the tradition of the open house. Americans could come directly into the White House and congratulate the President. Over time, the crowds became so enormous that President Jackson fled the crush through an open window.
By the time Grover Cleveland took office, the number of inaugural visitors was too large to manage, and so Cleveland had parade stands set up outside, where he could review the troops. Over time, this the review came to include floats and other civilian contributions. For Clinton’s second inauguration, the parade featured floats, choirs, and marching bands from all 50 states.
A Year-Long Celebration of 2013 Presidential Centennials
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the births of two Presidents of the United States: Richard Nixon (January 9, 1913–April 22, 1994) and Gerald Ford (July 14, 1913–December 26, 2006).
Throughout the year, the National Archives will feature programming in celebration of Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald R. Ford. Learn more about the 2013 Presidential Centennials here.
Nixon’s Surprise Visit from Elvis
President Richard Nixon shakes hands with Elvis Presley in the Oval Office. Presley was born on January 8, 1935, and Nixon was born on January 9, 1913 (100 years ago tomorrow).
Incidentally, the photo from this impromptu meeting on December 21, 1970, is among the most requested from the National Archives. The Elvis-Nixon meeting draws more inquiries than the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
Birthday cheers for Elvis and Nixon!
-from the Nixon Library
“In Event of Moon Disaster”, July 18, 1969.
White House speechwriter, William Safire, was asked to write a speech that President Nixon would make in case the Apollo 11 astronauts were stranded on the Moon.
It was never delivered, and this speech was quietly tucked away into Nixon’s records.
Source: Nixon Library
Jazz legend Duke Ellington died on this day, May 24, 1974
On April 24, 1969, Ellington celebrated his 70th birthday at the White House where he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
The medal was presented by President Richard Nixon, who himself had played the piano since childhood. From the President’s remarks:
“When we think of freedom, we think of many things. But Duke Ellington is one who has carried the message of freedom to all the nations of the world through music, through understanding, understanding that reaches over all national boundaries and over all boundaries of prejudice and over all boundaries of language..
In the royalty of American music, no man swings more or stands higher than the Duke.”
Afterwards, the President played “Happy Birthday” on the piano for the Duke while guests at the White House sang along.
Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington
April 29, 1899 - May 24, 1974
Dinner Diplomacy Thaws the Cold War
Sometimes sharing a good meal is the best way to resolve the differences you may have with another. For the United States and China, this strategy helped normalize relations during a peak of the Cold War. Read more
Images from Nixon’s culinary travels through China:
Banquet place settings (cigarettes included); Chinese people having lunch outdoors; President Nixon using chopsticks; Pat Nixon samples cuisine in the Peking Hotel kitchen; Menu from Banquet given by Prime Minister Chou in honor of President Nixon. February, 1972.
Ping Pong Diplomacy
President Richard Nixon’s trip to China in 1972 ended 25 years of isolation between the U.S. and the People’s Republic of China. During the week of February 21-29, the President traveled to Beijing, Hangzhou, and Shanghai - thawing relations with a country that had long been closed to the West.
Forty years later, Our Presidents will be revisiting the iconic events of Nixon in China. Stay tuned for behind-the-scenes details about this landmark trip.
Photos: President and Mrs. Nixon’s arrival in Peking, China. Nixon reviews troops at the airport; Air Force One in Peking, 02/21/1972.
-from the Nixon Library
Good evening. I have asked for this radio and television time tonight for the purpose of announcing that we today have concluded an agreement to end the war and bring peace with honor in Vietnam and in Southeast Asia.
President Richard Nixon
January 23, 1973
Inauguration Day 1969
Incoming President Richard M. Nixon and outgoing President Lyndon Johnson meet in the White House on Nixon’s inauguration day, 1/20/1969