by Silvia Pettem (published in the Daily Camera, September 22, 1998)
Richard Nixon inspired numerous student demonstrations in Boulder. At first the demonstrators wanted him in office, and then they wanted him out.
Nixon’s only visit to Boulder was in October 1956, when, as U.S. vice president, he campaigned at CU’s Macky Auditorium for re-election. He had already served one term with President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The country was enjoying an era of prosperity.
An enthusiastic crowd of more than 2,600 people packed the auditorium to hear Nixon speak. As he was introduced, 200 students paraded down the aisles and chanted, “We Want Dick.” Nixon told a Daily Camera reporter that he had seen many demonstrations but, “This tops them all.” Eisenhower and Nixon won their re-election.
In 1960, Nixon ran for president against John Kennedy. Nixon lost that election, but ran again, in 1968, and won against Hubert Humphrey.
After the election, First Lady Pat Nixon came to Boulder for four hours in March 1970. She was on a national tour of student volunteer organizations and stopped to see on-the-job workers at Boulder Day Nursery, Boulder Manor Nursing Home, and the Carmel House, a residence for adults with disabilities. At the time the nation was embroiled in the Vietnam War.
Many students were opposed to the war. The CU chapter of the Student Mobilization Committee showed their concerns by demonstrating during Mrs. Nixon’s visit.
One hundred anti-war protesters stood outside the nursery school on Spruce and 15th streets, but only one arrest was made. Several children at the nursery were asked for their comments about Mrs. Nixon’s visit. One little boy said, “The hippies don’t want her here.”
Student protests which followed no longer required a visit by Nixon or his wife. In February, 1971, students carried “U.S. Out of S.E. Asia Now” banners in another anti-war march. Four months later, after the passage of the 26th amendment to the U. S. Constitution, 18-year-olds were granted the right to vote. Nearly 7,000 CU students registered, and many become interested in politics for the first time.
After the U.S. invasion of Cambodia, CU students demonstrated again. In April, 1972, they barricaded the Denver-Boulder turnpike near Baseline Road and were tear-gassed by law-enforcement officials.
The following June, in Washington, D.C., five men were arrested while breaking into the offices of the Democratic National Headquarters in the Watergate apartment complex.
Nixon and his subordinates continually denied knowledge of the break-in. Their cover-up lasted through November, 1972, when Nixon was re-elected by an overwhelming majority for a second presidential term.
Afterwards, a disclosures of scandals, labeled collectively as “Watergate,” eroded public confidence and turned many of the newly enfranchised students against their president.
In October, 1973, Nixon’s cover-up of the Watergate break-in began to unravel. Approximately 150 students marched down Broadway from the University Memorial Center, on the CU campus, to the Boulder County Courthouse.
The marchers circulated petitions for Nixon’s impeachment and held signs which read, “Dump Dick,” “Remove Nixon Now,” and “No More Doubt, Get Nixon Out.”
In February, 1974, the House Judiciary Committee agreed with the demonstrating students. The House recommended impeachment on the grounds of obstruction of justice, abuse of presidential powers, and subversion of constitutional government by defiance of congressional subpoenas.
Finally, when the Supreme Court forced Nixon to make public three transcripts of taped conversations which showed that he had ordered a halt to the investigation of the break-in, he found his position untenable.
Three days later, on August 8, 1974, Nixon announced his decision to resign. He was the only American president to do so. The Daily Camera’s headline that day was, “World Sighs At End of Uncertainty.”