If the 37th president of the United States, Richard Milhous Nixon, were alive, he would be celebrating his 100th birthday today. In honor of this occasion, here are five things you may not have known about the man commonly referred to as "Tricky Dick."
1. He Was a Big Sports Fan
Nixon was responsible for the creation of the bowling alley in the White House basement. According to the book The Games Presidents Play: Sports and the Presidency by John Sayle Watterson, Nixon's high score was a pretty impressive 232. Jonathan Roscoe of the Nixon Library said a box of his old bowling scores from Oct. 18, 1969, were recently discovered. That particular day, the president rolled six games against his friend and confidant Charles Gregory "Bebe" Rebozo while vacationing at Camp David, finishing with scores of 160, 177, 114, 134, 153, and 115. Naval Aide Adm. Charles R. Larson sent Nixon's secretary a memo with the bowling scores attached three days later.
And according to Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72, Nixon was "a goddamn stone fanatic on every facet of pro football."
In 1968, Thompson was able to score a private interview with Nixon by playing off of their mutual love of the sport. The only catch was that Thompson could only talk about pigskin; politics was strictly forbidden in the interview. Nixon was also good friends with former Washington Redskins Head Coach George Allen. In a phone call with Allen on Oct. 22, 1972, the two discussed a Redskins victory over the Dallas Cowboys from earlier in the day.
Rumor has it that Nixon even designed a play that Allen called during the 1971 playoffs, which came to be known as "Nixon's Play," and according to Allen's own daughter "failed tremendously."
2. He Chauffeured His Future Wife on Her Dates With Other Men
According to the Nixon Library, he met Thelma Catherine Ryan at a rehearsal for a community play in which they were both acting. According to PBS's American Experience, he pursued her for more than two years, "even driving her to Los Angeles on weekends when she had dates with other men, then waiting around to take her home again."
3. His Early-Morning Visit to the Lincoln Memorial
As portrayed in Oliver Stone's film Nixon, around 5 a.m. on May 9, 1970, the president and his valet took a ride to the Lincoln Memorial, where they met with some student protesters. The president, his valet, and members of the Secret Service arrived at 4:58 a.m., according to Nixon Library records, and spent nearly an hour mingling with protesters (as many as 50 of them) before heading over to the U.S. Capitol around 6 a.m. He and several aides (including his personal physician and press secretary) would go on to have breakfast in the Rib Room at the Mayflower Hotel around 7 a.m., then returned to the White House for a full day of work. A few days later, Nixon dictated a memo to his aide H.R. Haldeman recounting his visit with the college students.
4. He Was Very Good at Poker
Nixon served in the Navy during WWII and, despite his Quaker upbringing (which forbade gambling), played poker to combat the boredom while he was stationed in the South Pacific. Navy Officer James Stewart told PBS's American Experience that Nixon won between $6,000 and $7,000 playing poker, money that he would use to fund his first major political campaign four years later.
5. He Lived Next Door to One of His 'Enemies'
In the late 1970s, Nixon bought a house in New York that happened to be next door to the home of historian and John F. Kennedy friend Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Not only were the two next-door neighbors, but they even shared a garden wall. Robert Schlesinger, opinion editor for U.S. News & World Report and the son of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., used to go trick-or-treating at the Nixon home as a child—wearing a Nixon mask, of course. The elder Schlesinger remarked to the press about Nixon moving in: "There goes the neighborhood."
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