Anniversary of Richard Nixon's Resignation: Six Headlines From 1974

On August 8, 1974, then-President Richard Nixon announced in a televised address that he was resigning as president of the United States and would be replaced by then-Vice President Gerald Ford.

Nixon's resignation came in the face of almost certain impeachment over the Watergate scandal, making him the first president in history to step down before his term was over. During his televised speech, he said that he always "tried to do what was best for the nation," but decided to resign after determining that his political base wasn't strong enough to continue with the constitutional process.

"I have never been a quitter," he told the public. "To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as president, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time president and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad."

He added that fighting for his "personal vindication" would "totally absorb" both his and Congress' time, which needed to be spent solving problems plaguing America both at home and abroad.

In a time when the news cycle was confined to printing one paper per day, local and national outlets published the news on August 9, 1974—Nixon's last day in office.

Displayed in all capitalized letters across the front of The New York Times was "Nixon Resigns," followed underneath with, "He Urges a Time of 'Healing'; Ford Will Take Office Today."

The New York Daily News also put "Nixon Resigns" in big, bold letters spanning almost half the front cover of the paper and added, "Acts in 'Interest of Nation,' Asks for End to Bitterness." At the bottom of the cover page, newspaper buyers were informed that "Ford Will Take Oath at Noon, Kissinger Agrees to Stay On."

Richard Nixon Resigns
Then-President Richard Nixon announces his resignation on national television, following the Watergate scandal. Pierre Manevy/Express/Getty Images

"In an emotion-filled, nationally televised speech, the culmination of weeks and months of pressure, Nixon said Vice President Ford would be sworn to succeed him at noon tomorrow. 'The leadership of America will be in good hands,' Nixon said, his voice wavering," the New York Daily News article explained.

The Chicago Tribune also announced "Nixon resigns" and quoted part of his speech that said, "America needs a full-time president."

On the cover of The Philadelphia Inquirer, editors wrote, "Nixon Resigns; Ford Steps Up," and accompanied the two front-page stories with a photo of Nixon embracing his wife, then-First Lady Pat Nixon, and a separate photo of Ford.

Splayed across the top of The Washington Post were just two words, "Nixon Resigns." The Washington Post published the Pentagon Papers leaked by Daniel Ellsberg that led to Nixon's administration bringing criminal charges against him and ultimately brought about the Watergate scandal.

Richard Nixon Resignation
Former President Richard Nixon, listened to by first lady Pat Nixon and daughter Tricia Nixon, says goodbye to family and staff in the White House East Room on August 9, 1974. Stringer/Getty Images

"Nixon Farewell," was bolded and put in all capitalized letters on the cover of the Los Angeles Times, along with a smaller font that read, "Resigns in 'Interests of Nation,' Hopes Action Will Heal Wounds of Watergate."

On Nixon's last day in the White House, he gave a formal farewell speech to his staff, which included emotional stories about his parents and the pride he took in working alongside the people who were employed by the White House.

His daughter, Julie Eisenhower, told Barbara Walters that her father "let his guard down" during the speech and ABC News reported his other daughter, Tricia, wrote in her diary that it was the first time people "were able to see daddy as he really was."

Shortly after the speech, Nixon and his wife boarded a helicopter and left the White House, where they had lived for over five years. Ford went on to finish out the rest of Nixon's term.

Anniversary of Richard Nixon's Resignation: Six Headlines From 1974 | U.S.