Yorba Linda History

Historic Documents

Search for specific termsBrowse alphabetical list of titlesBrowse by subject category

close this bookYorba Linda - Its History
View the documentDedication
View the documentAcknowledgments
View the documentPreface
View the documentChapter 1 - The Indians
View the documentChapter 2 - The Hacienda Era
View the documentChapter 3 - Carlton
View the documentChapter 4 - The Pioneers
View the documentChapter 5 - The Business District "Down Town”
View the documentChapter 6 - Recreation and Celebrations
View the documentChapter 7 - Water
View the documentChapter 8 - The School Story
View the documentChapter 9 - The Library
View the documentChapter 10 - The Churches
View the documentChapter 11 - Organizations
View the documentChapter 12 - Incorporation
View the documentChapter 13 - Richard M. Nixon
View the documentChapter 14 - Famous Citizens
View the documentChapter 15 - A Forward Look
View the documentChapter 16 - Yorba Linda - What Now?

Chapter 13 - Richard M. Nixon

  Open this page in a new window

On the night of November 5, 1968, the inhabitants of the small city of Yorba Linda, California, sat with eyes and ears focused on the television, watching with intense interest the results of the election for the office of President of the United States. The tally was close, at first giving one candidate a small lead and then the other. The Democratic candidate was Vice-President Hubert H. Humphrey, chief opponent of the Republican Candidate. To somewhat complicate the situation there was a third party candidate George Wallace, on an Independent ticket, who made quite an inroad on the votes of the traditional party candidates.

The election show was tremendously interesting for its parade of personalities and its running account of possibilities and probabilities. Yorba Lindans were proud of the lovely wife of the Republican candidate as she appeared always in dignified self-control and with an expression of happy confidence in the results. The charming daughters, Tricia and Julie were animatedly busy at telephones and in the company of Julie's fiance, David Eisenhower, handsome grandson of Ex-president Dwight Eisenhower.

At midnight this writer retired with hope for victory at a low ebb. At about 3:30 A.M. many of us got up and turned on the television, only to find that there was still no decision showing.

At nine o'clock in the morning we approached the television fearfully and turned it on. The news was so good that we were nearly [150] overcome with elation, for Yorba Linda's native son, Richard Milhous Nixon, had been elected to the highest office in the land and the most important position in the world, President of the United States of America!

And what of this man, his accomplishment, his personality, his forebears? We shall try to tell briefly of the two family trees from which he comes.

The earliest American Nixon of whom we know came to this country in the 1700's. He was Edward Nixon and two of his sons fought in the Revolutionary War. One son, John Nixon, read the Declaration of Independence the first time it was read in public, as part of his duties as Sheriff of Philadelphia. Later descendants fought in the war between the states. One, George Nixon fought at Gettysburg and is buried on that battlefield.

The Nixons were not of the moneyed class nor were they poor. They were well disciplined and believed in hard work to accomplish what they set out to do. They seem generally to have had above average intelligence.

Frank Nixon, Richard's father, lost his mother when he was seven. He quit school while still in the grades and from then on earned his living at a number of different trades. He came to California in 1907 and was a motorman on the trolley between Whittier and Los Angeles. He made his home in Whittier and there met Hannah Milhous whom he married in 1908. Frank was a Methodist and Hannah a Quaker. Frank liked the gentle ways of the Quakers and had no trouble adapting to them and the family worshipped in the Friends' Church thereafter.

The Milhouses, too, were Americans of long standing, the earliest coming to America in 1729. They were Irish Quakers born in County Kildare in Ireland. One of the Milhous men was an abolitionist before the Civil War and ran a station of the Underground Railway that helped fugitive slaves escape to freedom in the North.

Frank and Hannah Nixon came to Yorba Linda in 1912, where they built the comfortable little home on Yorba Linda Boulevard and planted a grove of lemon trees. They had one [151] son, three year old Harold at that time. On the following January 9th, 1913 their second son, Richard, was born.

In late September of the year 1960, while this writer was librarian of the Yorba Linda District Library, we received a letter from Andre Brunet of Paris, France. The handwriting was poor and the address was written in French, so it had been sent to several addresses in an effort to locate the addressee. Finally, the post office contacted a French woman and asked for help. She deciphered the writing and advised them that the letter was addressed to Monsieur, the Mayor of Yorba Linda, County of Orange, California, U.S.A. It happened that this writer was Honorary Mayor of the town in 1960, a title bestowed on the one receiving the most votes in a friendly campaign put on annually by the several organizations in the town, each backing its candidate by buying votes at 25¢ each, the entire proceeds going to a community project. When we opened the letter we saw that it would take some searching to find out what Monsieur Brunet was saying.

No one on the staff spoke any French, but we took a French-English dictionary from the shelf and after some hard work, learned that Andre Brunet wanted to know the date, the hour, the place and the condition (?) of the birth of Monsieur Richard Nixon. Enclosed was an international coupon worth 0.70 Nouveau Franc for return postage. (We kept this for a souvenir.)

Now we knew the year, the month and the day of our native son's birth but—the hour! I had bought all the Nixon biographies that came out, so we turned again to our shelves, and there we learned that the fame slated baby was born on January 9th, 1913, at 9:30 P.M. We relayed the information to Mr. Brunet immediately, adding that it was the coldest January on record in Yorba Linda, hoping this might answer his request for "condition".

We speculated on the reason for this request and came to the conclusion that our Paris correspondent must be an astrologer and wanted to forecast the outcome of the 1960 presidential election when Richard Nixon was running against John F. Kennedy for the office of President of the United States. [152]

Three more sons were born to Frank and Hannah Nixon. They were Donald, two years younger than Richard, Arthur, born in 1918 and Edward the youngest of the brothers. Harold died of tuberculosis when twenty-three and Arthur died of the same illness while still not much older than a toddler.

Before the birth of Arthur, Mrs. Hannah Nixon was assisted in her housework by Miss Mary Elizabeth Guptill, now Mrs. Rudolph Rez of Westminster, California. Mrs. Rez recalls she was known as the "hired girl", a term in common use for female household help fifty years ago. She says Mrs. Nixon did not like the term and did not so speak of her.

Mrs. Rez remembers caring for the three little boys and of reading to them after they were tucked in for the night. She says that Richard's favorites were the poems of James Whitcomb Riley and he would try to wheedle more reading when he was supposed to go to sleep. She remembers that his last act before sleep each night was reciting a little four line prayer.

Harold's illness and death caused the responsibilities of oldest son to fall upon Richard. By this time the family had moved to Whittier where Frank Nixon had a grocery store. Richard attended Fullerton High School during his freshman and sophomore years, but transferred to Whittier for his junior and senior years.

Ralph de Toledano, in his biography of Nixon, tells that Dick "not only helped to keep the books (in the store) but had full charge of the fruit and vegetable department driving to the Los Angeles public market before sunrise to do the purchasing and then tending the store after school. His academic work, however, never suffered from this and he maintained the equivalent of an "A" average; both in his junior and senior years won the Constitutional Oratorical Contest. In an intelligence test for which the norm was 35, Nixon scored 59."

Perhaps it was during these early formative years that he developed a storehouse of factual material on many subjects which he was able to recall when needed in fighting legal cases in his own law practice. Such a storehouse of knowledge will be [153] of immense value in leading the nation as its President.

This unusual student, at graduation from high school, received the California Interscholastic Federation Gold Seal award of scholarship. He also received a Harvard award which qualified him as an applicant for a scholarship at Harvard. However, he felt he couldn't afford to go to Harvard, and so attended Whittier College instead. His record at this small college shows that he participated in a considerable amount of extracurricular work and graduated second in his class. He was a star on the debating team, played football and was president of his class in his freshman and senior year.

After Whittier College, Nixon attended Duke University's School of Law at Durham, North Carolina. This was a period of very meager spending, for there was not enough money for our favorite son to participate in anything but the necessities. He and three other economically pressed boys rented a room in an old farm house about a mile from the Duke campus. It had no running water and no heat except a small laundry stove. The boys paid about $50 a year for this accommodation and did not complain for it gave them the chance to remain at the University's law school. The boys worked hard and had little time to spend on dates or amusements, but Richard was making his presence known at the school. In his second year he ran for the presidency of the Duke Bar Association and won.

In his senior year at Duke, Nixon was elected to the Order of the Coif, a national honorary society which accepts only students from the top 10 per cent of the nation's law students. He was graduated from Duke with his law degree in 1937, the third in his class.

On the advice of his friend, Dean Horick, of the Duke law school, Nixon went back to Whittier and entered the law firm of Wingert & Bewley, after passing a bar examination course for entrance to the California Bar with time for only three months of study instead of the usual five. At the end of a year he was taken into the firm as a partner and the firm became Wingert, Bewley and Nixon. He put in long days at his law firm, but was [154] able to take part in civic programs also. He became president of the 20-30 Club, was on the Board of Trustees of Whittier College and even took part in some amateur productions of Whittier's "little theater" group. And here he met Thelma Patricia Ryan.

Pat Ryan was of Scotch and German ancestry. She was very pretty, quiet, friendly and knowledgeable. Both her parents died while she was still a young girl. When she finished high school she went to work in a bank at Artesia, California, to earn money to attend college. In 1930, learning that some elderly friends were driving to the East Coast from California she offered to be their chauffeur. After arriving in the East she got a job in the laboratory of a hospital near New York City, where she worked for two years and then returned to California. She had a research fellowship and entered the University of Southern California where she worked grading papers to help pay her schooling expense. On holidays and weekends she worked in a department store until she graduated, after which she went to Whittier to teach school.

Pat Ryan had a leaning toward dramatics and had played some bit parts while at U.S.C. And so it was that at the "little theater" of Whittier she met her future husband. Dick and Pat were married a little over two years later, on June 21, 1940.

When the United States was brought into World War II by the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Richard Nixon, who could have claimed exemption from military service because of his religion, did not do so. He joined the Navy and applied for a commission. He started as lieutenant, junior grade, and came out in November, 1945 as Lieutenant Commander Richard Nixon, after a gruelling tour of duty in which he demonstrated his sagacity and leadership ability. A navy comrade said of him, "Nick was a worker. He was tireless. . . .He commanded a lot of respect from the guys with whom he came in contact. When things got hectic he never lost his head. No matter how [155] badly things got fouled up Nick got his part of the operation straightened out and without a lot of hullaballo."

In 1946 Richard Nixon won the contest for a seat in the United States House of Representatives from Jerry Voorhis, a wealthy and influential man who had held the post for ten years. The story of this contest is so unusual as to give us the feeling that fate was behind it all. This brief chapter does not permit room for the story, but we refer you to the several full length biographies of Nixon.

And so when the Truman-tagged "do-nothing" Eightieth Congress convened in 1947, Nixon was present. This was the era when labor bosses had gotten such a hold on the unions that there was great danger to all working men and to the nation itself. Subversion in the higher echelons of government and industry was rapidly becoming a threat to the life of the country. Certain persons in the government took offense at anyone who opposed these two dangerous forces. Nixon knew that membership on the Labor Committee, which was planning legislation to control labor union abuses, and on the House Un-American Activities Committee could mean the death of his political ambitions and defeat at the polls. He had definite ideas and strong feeling about labor. He felt that the laboring man was justified in demanding a liveable wage and decent working conditions but also that the labor unions had no right to a sacrosanct position of immunity to investigation. In April of 1947 he took the floor in the House to debate the affirmative for the Taft-Hartley Bill. The bill became an act of Congress. Only after its success was assured did many victims of labor union abuses come forward and air their grievances and receive redress.

When, after careful consideration, Nixon accepted a position on the Un-American Activities Committee, he did so, knowing that it could mean much adverse criticism and possibly the end to his political career, but he felt morally obligated to become a part of it. There was evidence of subversion in high places but the trend of thought at the time was such that it was very unpopular to try to expose any of it. Richard Nixon and Carl Mundt, [156] a member of the House of Representatives, worked on legislation to control subversion. The culmination was the Mundt-Nixon bill which was passed by the House by a good majority, but the Senate let it linger and die at the end of 1948.

Nixon won re-election easily in the fall of 1948 and Mundt, a South Dakotan, was elected to the Senate. These gentlemen again introduced their Subversive Activities Control Act.

It often happens that when a bill is introduced by someone who has done careful research on a bill and its objectives, other legislators make a big play to "get into the act" and try to gain glory and recognition at home by tacking on changes, amendments, and red tape, until the life and force of the bill is bled of its effectiveness. Such was the case with this bill. It is in force, but without much power.

Perhaps the greatest test which Nixon encountered was his involvement in the Hiss case. The full story of this traumatic event in the history of the United States is told in great detail in Whittaker Chamber's book "Witness". Nixon worked tirelessly to expose Alger Hiss for his participation in subversion against the United States. Mr. Hiss was a very popular man in Washington and Mr. Nixon came out of the fight with a great many enemies but Hiss was convicted.

In 1950, California elected Richard Nixon to a seat in that most exclusive club, the United States Senate. Nixon had campaigned up and down the state in a station wagon, speaking on street corners or at planned meetings. In the e n d he was elected by a plurality of 682,000 votes.

During the two years that Nixon was a member of the Senate he continued to show his qualities of leadership and his ability to take punishment. He was given an assignment on the Senate Labor Committee. This was a thankless and difficult job, but Nixon accepted it immediately. He knew he would be subject to abuse from the labor bosses if he opposed them but he said. "My work with the House Labor Committee gives me the background for it. Let them snipe away." He was also placed on [157] the Investigations subcommittee where his background gave him considerable weight.

The 1952 Presidential campaign was a hectic one. The Republicans were out to beat the Democrats with a fervor that meant now or never. The Republican hopefuls were Senator Robert A. Taft and General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Richard Nixon admired both Senator Taft and Dwight Eisenhower, but felt that the General was the best bet to win the election and so he threw his help to Eisenhower, who won the nomination at Chicago.

Upon Eisenhower's nomination Nixon retired to his room at the Stockyards Inn and tried to sleep. Mr. Eisenhower and the "inner circle" met to decide on the running mate. The General made a list of seven names and handed the list to the members gathered, with the remark, "Any one of these will be acceptable to me". Richard Nixon's name was first on the list. Discussion followed and the group was finally agreed on Nixon. His name was then submitted to the larger committee meeting at the Hilton hotel and the choice was confirmed. The phone rang in Nixon's room at the hotel and he was informed of the choice. The surprised senator from California got dressed quickly and rushed with a screaming motorcycle escort to the Blackstone Hotel where he was greeted by Mr. Eisenhower who asked, "Will you join me in the campaign?" "I'd be proud and happy to," answered the slightly stunned Nixon.

When the crowd saw Nixon as he came to the convention they stood up and cheered. Senator Knowland of California, who had been a loyal supporter of Nixon, made the nominating speech. Several spoke enthusiastically for the choice and finally a move was made that Nixon be nominated by acclamation and the convention roared approval.

There had been two attempts by anti-Nixonites to tag Nixon with anti-Semitic and anti-Negro smears. The Anti-Defamation League defended him in the press and the rank and file of the Democratic Party in all fairness in their official publication stated, "there is nothing in the record which in anyway would indicate [158] that Nixon has anti-Semitic tendencies or has participated in anti-minority activities".

On September 18, 1952, the New York Post came out with a big front page in block-type letters, Secret Nixon Fund! It claimed that a millionaire's club had collected an $18,000 "slush fund for Nixon's financial comfort" thus implying that it was bribe money.

Nixon had made no secret of the fact that a fund had been raised in California to defray a part of his campaign expenses such as cross country travel during the campaign, political literature, etc., all of which is legal and common practice. However great harm had been done and the Nixon haters on the Republican side were eager to believe the worst and dump Nixon. Nixon issued a statement and explained that the fund was a matter of public knowledge, was administered by one of the trustees of the organization, who made all disbursements by check for perfectly legal expenses. The furor continued. Nixon talked on the telephone to Mr. Eisenhower offering to turn in his resignation immediately since "I'm only interested in seeing that you win". Mr. Eisenhower said, "Let's wait and see what all the facts are." Eisenhower was pressured continually by certain people to fire Nixon without a hearing, which the General refused to do.

A strategy meeting was held in St. Louis. It was decided by the inner core of the campaign personnel to put Nixon on a coast-to-coast television hook-up. They began immediately trying to raise the necessary money when the word came that a commercial sponsor would cancel his show and put Nixon on at no cost to the party. Mr. Nixon refused to go on at the expense of any one individual, but only if the party financed the telecast. In a few hours the money had been raised by the Republican Party. General Eisenhower advised "Put the whole works on the record, Dick".

And so it was that on the evening of September 23, 1952, Richard Nixon went on the air at 6:30 Pacific time and did such a courageous, unprecedented and heart-moving thing that people throughout the nation who hadn't been his supporters but who [159] had a firm regard for fair play were won over to him. His advisers urged him to rehearse the speech which he refused to do, saying "I don't want this to be or look like an act."

He told the story, straight and unadorned. He refuted the libelous charges, point by point. He bared his personal wealth to the last dollar, and it was pitifully small when compared to the fortunes possessed by most of those in comparable positions in politics. He told of the mortgages on his homes and the debts he owed. He told the American people that he was willing to resign from the race if it would help Eisenhower win. He asked them to call or write or telegraph what they wished him to do and whatever their decision was he would abide by it.

When the speech was over Mr. Nixon was completely exhausted and sure that it had been no good at all. General Eisenhower and Mrs. Eisenhower were watching from a private office in a Cleveland auditorium where the General was to speak that night. Mamie Eisenhower was weeping and the General was trying to hide his emotions. This speech is often referred to as the "Checkers" speech because, in listing any gifts received by him, he told of the little dog, Checkers, that had been given his children. He stated whimsically that he intended to keep the dog.

The public response was a unique and unparalled situation in American political life. It broke all records. The campaign took on momentum from there and the election of the Eisenhower-Nixon ticket was a landslide.

Throughout the history of the executive branch of the government of the United States, the office of the Vice President has been ignored and banished to a position of doldrums. President Eisenhower was the first President to keep his promise to give the Vice President an important part to play. He stated, "I want him (the Vice President) to be able to step into the Presidency smoothly in case anything happens to me." And so it was that Nixon was appointed to preside over the National Security Council when the President was not in Washington, besides many other important duties. [160]

The Vice President was wise enough to keep out of the limelight as much as possible. He was offered many public speaking engagements which would have considerably increased his income, but he refused them all. President Eisenhower once said of him, "Dick is the most valuable member of my team".

The Vice President was sent on a 45,000 mile trip to Asia, at which time he visited many countries and insisted on stepping out and meeting the common people, shaking hands and making friends. The image of friendship he created there and the carefully evaluated information he gave to the President and the National Security Council were of great value to the United States.

Near the end of Eisenhower's second term in 1960, the Republicans were choosing a candidate to run for President. Richard Nixon was the logical choice. He had spent a very active year in 1959. In July-August he made a tour of the U.S.S.R. and Poland on which he was accompanied by Mrs. Nixon, 50 reporters and photographers and 35 officials of the U.S. government. While in Moscow he and Nikita Khrushchev engaged in a mild verbal battle over the advantages and virtues of the democratic and communist systems. Mr. Khrushchev was angry and later stated that Mr. Nixon had "distorted Soviet conditions and exaggerated material progress in the United States." Nixon's stock rose considerably in the public press from the encounter. On a trip to Latin America Nixon was placed in actual danger by Communist-led mobs.

At the Republican primaries of 1960 Richard Nixon won the nomination for president easily. But in the fall campaign the Democrats pitted John F. Kennedy against him. Mr. Kennedy was a brilliant, handsome and gifted man, wealthy in his own right and supported by the labor unions and the powerful Democratic party. Nixon worked very hard, but he lost the election by a very small margin. John F. Kennedy received only 113,059 more votes than Nixon out of 68,113,059 votes cast for the two main contenders. [161]

In spite of his defeat for the presidency in 1960, Nixon decided to enter the race for Governor of California in 1962. It was a bitterly fought contest. The incumbent, Edmund G. Brown, was firmly entrenched in the Democratic controlled state government of California. On November 6th the electorate gave a majority of almost 300,000 votes to Brown.

His two political defeats did not cripple Richard Nixon's basic confidence in himself as it might a lesser man. As with some of the strongest men of history, great disappointment served only to strengthen his determination to go ahead to further battle for what seemed to him to be of highest importance for America. When the Republican Party began to take cognizance of itself early in 1968 it was faced with the problem of who was entitled to the position of titular head of the G.O.P. There were a number of men who had acquired stature in the party, among whom were Barry Goldwater, Nelson Rockefeller, Ronald Reagan, a few others and Richard Nixon. Mr. Rockefeller and Mr. Reagan both protested that they were not interested in entering the Presidential race. Mr. Nixon was interested and thought he could win.

The Republican convention was held in Miami on August 5th. Richard Nixon was nominated on the first ballot and eventually it was made unanimous. Mr. Reagan and Mr. Rockefeller had decided toward the last to run, but neither came close to winning the votes given to Mr. Nixon. The convention throughout was a congenial and peaceful affair and at the close of it the party was running united and contented.

Hubert Humphrey was nominated to run on the Democratic ticket as candidate for President in the November election. Mr. Robert Kennedy, who would have doubtless been a candidate for nomination on the Democratic ticket, was assassinated on June 5, 1968 in Los Angeles just after receiving the California nomination for the Presidency on the Democratic ticket.

When the votes were finally counted on the November 5th election, Mr. Nixon received 31,770,222 and Mr. Humphrey 31,267,744, a margin of more than a half million votes for the Republican standard bearer. [162]

A giant homecoming celebration was held in the Anaheim Convention Center on January 2, 1969, for Richard Nixon. Yorba Linda was among the North Orange County towns participating, and Whittier, where the President got some of his high school and first; four years of college education was also represented. The program was televised and has been shown several times. Those from Yorba Linda appearing were Hurless Barton, long time friend of the Nixons, Cecil Pickering, who once spanked 8 year old Richard, Ralph Shook, Sr., who saved Richard from a horse's hoofs, Yoneko Iwatsuru, a classmate, Mrs. Barney Southerlin, painter of the Nixon birthplace oil presented by 4-H President, Howard Southerlin, Mrs. R.C. Cochran, his second grade teacher, and Mrs. Furnas who assisted at his birth.

Immediately after the election there was action in Yorba Linda to make plans for preserving the old Nixon homestead, as it was the birthplace of our thirty-seventh President. A governing body was chosen to complete the plans and administer the funds being given. Gifts of cash began to come in. The Yorba Linda Women's Club gave $1250. The people on this committee are Hurless Barton, Chairman; Dr. Robert Meador, Secretary-Treasurer; William Drake, Hoyt Corbit and Burton Brooks, Directors, and Roland Bigonger, Legal Counsellor. A meeting was held on January 23 at which the above mentioned members of the committee and Donald Nixon, brother of the President, and several people from the State Parks and Recreations Board and others representing Yorba Linda organizations, met to discuss plans for acquiring the land surrounding the old home with help from the State.

On January 20, 1969 President Nixon was inaugurated. It was a well-planned inauguration. Pat Nixon held the two family Bibles, one from the Milhous family and one from the Nixon family, upon which the President placed his left hand with right hand raised as he was sworn in by Chief Justice Earl Warren.

As I watched I hoped that the lovely mother of the President, now deceased, was watching too. I remember the day in 1960, when we held the dedication of our then new Yorba Linda [163] District Library building. We had asked Mr. Nixon to give the address. He was unable to do so and declined graciously in a two page telegram (also among our souvenirs). Mrs. Hannah Nixon came and I met her at the door and escorted her on a tour of the building. She was interested in the mural on the north wall, painted by Alan Hall, a local artist. The mural is a semi-modernistic painting, depicting the history of Yorba Linda, with orange and avocado trees, grapes, oil derrick, four Spanish conquistadors one of which represents Jose Yorba, and other representations. Mrs. Nixon saw the faint picture of the United States Capitol building in the background and asked its significance. I told her that it represented our hope that her son would be our next President. Surprise, pride and keen appreciation showed in her eyes. It was typical of her that she thus showed her feelings to me rather than by effusive speech.

So much is happening daily that is newsworthy about our famous citizen but this chapter must go to press. It has been a joy to research and write it. We shall follow with intense interest this great man as he leads our country through these difficult years. [164]

to previous section to next section

Top of page