Richard Nixon graduated from Whittier College in 1934 and Duke University School of Law in Durham, North Carolina, in 1937. He returned to California to practice law. In 1940 he married the former Thelma "Pat" Ryan and in 1942 the couple moved to Washington DC where he worked for the federal government at the Office of Price Administration. Four months later he began his service in the United States Navy during World War II. He resigned his commission after the war on New Year's Day of 1946.
Nixon was elected in California to the House of Representatives in 1946 and to the Senate in 1950. In 1948 as a member of the House Un-American Activities Committee, his pursuit of the Alger Hiss case established his reputation as a leading anti-communist, and elevated him to national prominence. In 1952 Senator Nixon was selected to be the running mate of Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Republican Party presidential nominee in the 1952 election. Nixon served for eight years as vice president. He ran unsuccessfully for president in 1960, narrowly losing to John F. Kennedy. Two years later he lost a race for Governor of California in 1962, following which he told reporters "you won't have Dick Nixon to kick around any more." But that wasn't correct. In 1968, he ran again for the president and was elected, defeating Democrat Hubert Humphrey.
At first Nixon escalated America's involvement in the Vietnam War that he inherited from the previous administration, but he subsequently ended U.S. involvement by 1973. Nixon's visit to the People's Republic of China in 1972 opened diplomatic relations between the two nations, and he signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with the Soviet Union the same year.
Domestically, many of Nixon's policies offended some in his conservative base. He was very progressive in response to many social issues. For example, he launched initiatives to fight cancer and illegal drugs. He also imposed wage and price controls, enforced desegregation of Southern schools, implemented environmental reforms, and introduced legislation to reform healthcare and welfare. While he was President, the first manned spacecraft landed on the moon, that being Apollo 11. But it was also Nixon who later replaced manned space exploration with shuttle missions. He was re-elected by a landslide in 1972.
Nixon's second term was marred by the Watergate scandal, in which operatives working with the knowledge of the Committee to Re-Elect the President, were caught breaking in to the Democratic National Committee headquarters. Mistrust of Nixon abounded and he became pejoratively referred to by his critics as "Tricky Dick". It was a terrible shame, because it was totally unnecessary for Nixon's re-election. As the scandal escalated, and investigators followed a trial that led to the White House, Nixon lost almost all of his political support, and faced certain impeachment. On August 9, 1974, he resigned the presidency. After his resignation, he accepted a pardon issued by his successor, Gerald Ford.
In retirement, Nixon's work as an elder statesman, authoring nine books and undertaking many foreign trips, which helped to rehabilitate his public image. His wife Pat died on June 22, 1993, of emphysema and lung cancer. Her funeral services were held on the grounds of the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace and Richard Nixon was distraught throughout the ceremony. Less than a year later, Nixon suffered a severe stroke on April 18, 1994, while preparing to eat dinner in his Manhattan home. A blood clot resulting from his heart condition had formed in his upper heart, broken off, and traveled to his brain. He was taken to New York Hospital–Cornell Medical Center in Manhattan, alert but unable to speak or to move his right arm or leg. Damage to the brain caused swelling and he slipped into a deep coma. Richard Milhous Nixon died at 9:08 p.m. on April 22, 1994, with his daughters Tricia and Julie at his bedside. He was 81 years old.