Excerpts from "the first rough draft of history" as reported in The Washington Post on this date in the 20th century.
After becoming the only U.S. president ever to resign from office, Richard M. Nixon spent the rest of his life trying to rehabilitate his reputation through book writing and appearances as an elder statesman. His legacy, however, remains widespread popular cynicism about politics. Nixon died in 1994. An excerpt from The Post of Aug. 9, 1974:
Richard Milhous Nixon announced last night that he will resign as the 37th President of the United States at noon today.
Vice President Gerald R. Ford of Michigan will take the oath as the new President at noon to complete the remaining 2 years of Mr. Nixon's term.
After two years of bitter public debate over the Watergate scandals, President Nixon bowed to pressures from the public and leaders of his party to become the first President in American history to resign.
"By taking this action," he said in a subdued yet dramatic television address from the Oval Office, "I hope that I will have hastened the start of the process of healing which is so desperately needed in America." ...
Mr. Nixon said he decided he must resign when he concluded that he no longer had "a strong enough political base in the Congress" to make it possible for him to complete his term of office.
Declaring that he has never been a quitter, Mr. Nixon said that to leave office before the end of his term "is abhorrent to every instinct in my body."
But "as President, I must put the interests of America first," he said.
While the President acknowledged that some of his judgments "were wrong," he made no confession of the "high crimes and misdemeanors" with which the House Judiciary Committee charged him its bill of impeachment.
Specifically, he did not refer to Judiciary Committee charges that in the cover-up of Watergate crimes he misused government agencies such as the FBI, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Internal Revenue Service. ...
Mr. Nixon's brief speech was delivered in firm tones and he appeared to be in complete control of his emotions. The absence of rancor contrasted sharply with the "farewell" he delivered in 1962 after being defeated for the governorship of California.
An hour before the speech, however, the President broke down during a meeting with old congressional friends and had to leave the room. ...
The President said he had thought it was his duty to persevere in office in face of the Watergate charges and to complete his term.
"In the past days, however, it has become evident to me that I no longer have a strong enough political base in the Congress to justify continuing that effort," Mr. Nixon said.
His family "unanimously urged" him to stay in office and fight the charges against him, he said. But he came to realize that he would not have the support needed to carry out the duties of his office in difficult times.
In his admission of error, the outgoing President said: "I deeply regret any injuries that may have been done in the course of the events that led to this decision." ...
At 7:30 p.m., Mr. Nixon again left the White House for the short walk to the Executive Office Building. The crowd outside the gates waved U.S. flags and sang "America" as he walked slowly up the steps, his head bowed, alone.