Throughout American history, there has only been one man who resigned from his position as President of the United States and his name was Richard Nixon. On August 8, 1974, Nixon appeared in a televised address from the Oval Office, where he said, “By taking this action, I hope that I will have hastened the start of the process of healing which is so desperately needed in America.”
Up until that fateful day, Nixon found himself embroiled in what was then considered one of the most scandalous affairs in the country’s history: the Watergate affair. In 1972, burglars connected to Nixon’s reelection campaign broke into the Democratic National Committee offices to steal documents and wiretap the phones. The wiretaps didn’t work at first, which prompted a second break-in at which the perpetrators were caught. It wasn’t immediately clear that they were connected to Nixon’s campaign and that August, Nixon swore in a speech that his staff was not involved. He ended up reelected in a landslide victory.
Of course, Nixon was lying through his teeth. Investigators, which included Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, suspected that a serious crime was committed. They found that Nixon aggressively tried to cover up his crime, which included paying hush money to the burglars and hatching a plan that involved instructing the CIA to impede the ongoing FBI investigation.
Nixon’s crimes were eventually unraveled before the nation’s eyes and he was charged for deliberately obstructing justice and abusing his presidential power. Everything came to a head when Nixon’s aides revealed that the president secretly recorded all of his Oval Office conversations and despite desperate attempts to keep the tapes to himself, Nixon eventually relented and released some of them.
With Nixon’s impeachment on the horizon, his aides strongly encouraged him to resign instead. The day after he announced his resignation, the 37th president left the White House lawn with his family in a helicopter bound for their home to Southern California. A few minutes later, Vice President Gerald Ford was sworn in as the 38th president of the United States.