40th Anniversary of the Nixon Pardon: Congressional Testimony
President Ford’s sudden announcement of his decision to pardon Richard Nixon raised many questions. People felt that the pardon circumvented justice, continuing the Watergate coverup by preventing the possible indictment of the former President that could have provided answers to lingering questions. Among the overwhelming negative responses from the public was the idea that the pardon was part of a “secret deal” between Ford and Nixon.
Several Representatives requested answers to specific questions regarding the pardon and the circumstances surrounding it. On October 17, 1974, President Ford appeared on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, becoming the first sitting President to give sworn congressional testimony. He delivered an opening statement and answered questions posed by the committee members regarding when and with whom he had discussed the pardon, and why he decided to grant it.
"I hope…that I have at least cleared the air so that most Americans will understand what was done and why it was done," he said at the end of the two hour session. "And again I trust that all of us can get back to the job of trying to solve our problems both at home and abroad."
This letter from then-House Minority Leader Gerald Ford to President Richard Nixon lists Ford’s recommendations to fill the Vice Presidential vacancy following Spiro Agnew’s resignation on October 10, 1973. President Nixon ultimately nominated Congressman Ford to be Vice President, and less than one year later Ford would find himself serving as President following Nixon’s resignation.
Sometimes Laughter Is the Best Medicine
Photograph of President Gerald Ford and Comedian Bob Hope Visiting First Lady Betty Ford in the President’s Suite at Bethesda Naval Hospital, Bethesda, Maryland, Following the First Lady’s Breast Cancer Surgery, 10/05/1974
Happy 90th Birthday Jimmy Carter!
James Earl Carter, Jr., thirty-ninth president of the United States, was born October 1, 1924, in the small farming town of Plains, Georgia. His father, James Earl Carter, Sr., was a farmer and businessman; his mother, Lillian Gordy Carter, a registered nurse.
Jimmy was educated in the public school of Plains, attended Georgia Southwestern College and the Georgia Institute of Technology, and received a B.S. degree from the United States Naval Academy in 1946.
In the Navy, Jimmy became a submariner, serving in both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets and rising to the rank of lieutenant. Jimmy was chosen for the nuclear submarine program and took graduate work in reactor technology and nuclear physics. He served as a senior officer of the Seawolf, the second nuclear submarine.
Jimmy Carter served as president from January 20, 1977 to January 20, 1981. Significant foreign policy accomplishments of his administration included the Panama Canal treaties, the Camp David Accords, the treaty of peace between Egypt and Israel, the SALT II treaty with the Soviet Union, and the establishment of U.S. diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. He championed human rights throughout the world.
On December 10, 2002, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for 2002 to Mr. Carter “for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.”
Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter volunteer one week a year for Habitat for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that helps needy people in the United States and in other countries renovate and build homes for themselves. He teaches Sunday school and is a deacon in the Maranatha Baptist Church of Plains. The Carters have three sons, one daughter, nine grandsons, three granddaughters, four great-grandsons and five great-granddaughters.
Jimmy at the age of one month with mother, Lillian Carter. November, 1924.
Jimmy in his Annapolis Naval Academy uniform. 1943.
Jimmy Carter, campaigning for the presidency. 1974.
The Carters walk to the White House from the Capitol building. Inauguration Day, 1/20/77.
Anwar Sadat, Jimmy Carter, and Menahem Begin at the signing of the Treaty of Peace Between Egypt and Israel. 3/29/79.
Jimmy Carter receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. 12/10/02.
Letter from John Beaulieu to President Dwight D. Eisenhower in Braille, 10/1956
Item from White House Central Files (Eisenhower Administration). (1953 - 1961)
Braille allows those who are blind to read using a system of raised dots on a piece of paper. The configurations of the dots represent a letter or number and are grouped together like written letters to make words. This letter is written in Braille by 13 year old John Beaulieu. In this case, the signature is felt, not seen.
Happy 90th Birthday, President Carter!
Jimmy Carter (James Earl Carter, Jr.), thirty-ninth president of the United States, was born October 1, 1924, in the small farming town of Plains, Georgia, and grew up in the nearby community of Archery. His father, James Earl Carter, Sr., was a farmer and businessman; his mother, Lillian Gordy, a registered nurse. He was elected President on November 2, 1976 and served from January 20, 1977 to January 20, 1981.
Looking for a formal yet patriotic #NationalCoffeeDay? Try this Founding Fathers-themed coffee service:
In honor of National Coffee Day, here’s a coffee service given to President Ford by Queen Margrethe II and Prince Henrik of Denmark on May 10, 1976.
This Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Colonial Coffee-service includes a coffee pot with lid, a creamer, a sugar bowl with lid, four coffee cups, four coffee saucers, and a serving tray. Each item features the silhouette of an American Patriot such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. Additionally, each piece has a tortoise shell glaze and a gold band around the bottom, with a gold grapevine inlay around the top.
With the exception of the added silhouettes, this coffee set is an exact replica of one designed and produced by the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Factory in 1782. The Royal Copenhagen Porcelain Factory designed the Colonial Coffee-service in commemoration of the American Bicentennial and the factory’s bicentennial.
Ahoy, mateys! ‘Tis Talk Like a Pirate Day.
Here be President Gerald “Arrr” Ford talkin’ wit’ Al Oliver, a Pirate from t’ three rivers o’ Pittsburgh, before t’ Major League All-Starrr Game on July 13, 1976.
Be ye lookin fer pirates of a different stripe?
Curious about Presidential History? Ask a Curator!
Do you have questions about Presidential history and artifacts? Tomorrow, the Presidential Libraries of the National Archives will be answering questions live for #AskaCurator Day on Twitter.
Over 600 museums from 40 countries will be participating, including our very own experts on Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Jimmy Carter. You can also ask curators at the National Archives Exhibits in Washington, D.C.
Museum Objects from the Presidential Libraries:
Rocking Chair used by John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office; RCA Radio Microphone used by FDR to deliver some of his Fireside Chats from the White House; HMS Resolute Desk replica at the JFK Library; Portrait by Octavio Ocampo presented to President Carter on the occasion of a state dinner honoring José López Portillo, President of Mexico, February 1979; 1957 Inaugural gown of Mamie Eisenhower; WWII POW Diary at the Truman Library;1952 Eisenhower campaign hat.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel arrived in Washington, D.C., on September 10, 1974. The state dinner in his honor was held on September 12.
Maria Downs, Mrs. Ford’s Social Secretary, provides a description of the welcoming ceremony for visiting heads of state:
This official greeting by the President and the First Lady was a very impressive occasion which included the herald trumpet greeting, honors to the President, Ruffles and Flourishes, both national anthems, a 21 gun salute, reviewing of the troops, the welcoming remarks of our President and the honored guest’s response….In their homeland, millions of our guest’s countrymen would be scrutinizing the manner in which their leader is received – the respect shown – the guests present – all these details and many others are looked upon as significant symbols.
"Dear President Ford,
I think you are half Right and half wrong.”
This letter, from third grader Anthony Ferreira, encapsulated the country’s deep division over Ford’s controversial decision, stating simply: ”I think you are half Right and half wrong.”
40th Anniversary of the Nixon Pardon: The Reaction
During his Vice Presidential confirmation hearings in November 1973 Gerald Ford had been asked about the possibility of a President preventing criminal prosecution of his predecessor if the former President had resigned from office. “I do not think the public would stand for it,” he answered. After pardoning Richard Nixon on September 8, 1974, he discovered how right he had been.
The most immediate repercussion was the resignation of White House Press Secretary Jerald terHorst shortly before the announcement was made. The President had told him of the decision only the day before and terHorst felt he could not support it. “As your spokesperson I do not know how I could credibly defend that action,” he wrote in his resignation letter, given that absolute pardon was not being extended to those who evaded military service in Vietnam or the others involved in the Watergate situation.
The White House received thousands of letters, telegrams, and messages in the days following the pardon announcement. Reactions ran the gamut from outrage to support. Government officials, celebrities, and citizens from around the country all weighed in with their opinions.
By February 1975 the White House tallied 250,000 pieces of mail regarding the pardon. Opinion ran two to one against it.
40th Anniversary of the Nixon Pardon: A President, a Pen, a Pardon
On Sunday, September 8, 1974, President Ford attended services at St. John’s Episcopal Church to pray for guidance and understanding before making his announcement to the nation.
In his remarks just before signing the document, he noted that the pardon reflected both his Presidential responsibilities and his personal beliefs:
As President, my primary concern must always be the greatest good of all the people of the United States whose servant I am. As a man, my first consideration is to be true to my own convictions and my own conscience.
My conscience tells me clearly and certainly that I cannot prolong the bad dreams that continue to reopen a chapter that is closed. My conscience tells me that only I, as President, have the constitutional power to firmly shut and seal this book. My conscience tells me it is my duty, not merely to proclaim domestic tranquility, but to use every means that I have to insure it.
Shortly after the announcement was made former President Nixon released a statement accepting the pardon. Although such a statement wasn’t required President Ford felt it was very significant. According to the precedent set by Burdick v. United States, a pardon “carries an imputation of guilt, acceptance, a confession of it.” By resigning and accepting the pardon Nixon was publicly acknowledging his guilt in the Watergate cover up.
"It was an unbelievable lifting of a burden from my shoulders," President Ford wrote about announcing the pardon. "I felt certain that I had made the right decision, and I was confident that I could now proceed without being harassed by Nixon or his problems any more. I thought I could concentrate 100 percent of my time on the overwhelming problems that faced both me and the country."
The public’s reaction to the announcement, however, quickly proved that the pardon had not settled matters as President Ford had intended.
40th Anniversary of the Nixon Pardon: The Announcement
Ladies and gentlemen, I have come to a decision which I felt I should tell you and all of my fellow American citizens, as soon as I was certain in my own mind and in my own conscience that it is the right thing to do.
At 11:05 a.m. on September 8, 1974, President Ford addressed the nation from the Oval Office to announce his decision to “grant a full, free and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed.”
Listen to President Ford’s remarks from the White House Communications Agency Audio Recordings of President Gerald R. Ford’s Speeches, Remarks and News Conferences. A transcript is available here.
Image: White House photograph A0627-09.