More than 400 White House staff came to see Richard Nixon say farewell at 9.32 a.m. in the East Room of the White House. And when Nixon and his family walked to the waiting helicopter, staff and guests crowded across the lawn and porch.
There were hundreds of people at the White House that historic morning. But politics does make strange bedfellows and three names in particular stand out from the pages of the daily White House diary entry for August 9.
David Eisenhower, the grandson of former President Dwight Eisenhower, was there. He made the long walk down the red carpet to the helicopter holding the hand of his wife, Julie, who was also Nixon’s daughter.
Her name does not appear on the manifest of the helicopter that lifted off from the White House lawn. But when the President arrived at Andrews Air Force Base and then boarded Air Force One, a young Diane Sawyer joined him on the second aircraft. Sawyer had been working as a staff assistant in Nixon’s administration since 1970, and she followed the former President to California, where she helped him write his memoirs. She is currently the anchor for ABC World News.
And future President George H. W. Bush and his wife were there. Bush attended in his capacity as Chairman of the Republican National Convention. He also recorded his impressions of the events in his diary, revealing a mix of emotions about the day and President Nixon: “President Nixon looked just awful. He used glasses—the first time I ever saw them. Close to breaking down—understandably. Everyone in the room in tears. . . . One couldn’t help but look at the family and the whole thing and think of his accomplishments and then think of the shame and wonder what kind of man is this really…” (read the full diary entry here).
What kind of man was he, really? Decide for yourself. For more on Nixon’s life and Presidency, visit the Nixon Presidential Library web site.