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Document Friday: What if Nixon had become a G-Man?

July 23, 2010

Photo submitted by Nixon with his FBI application.

On 23 April, 1937 Richard Nixon applied for a position in the FBI.  According to his file, released through FOIA by the FBI, he almost got the job.  The FBI’s application file on Nixon –who gained his political fame by attempting to expose the communist “plot” to take over Hollywood and investigating spies who allegedly hid state secrets in pumpkins— shows that he was an natural agent.

Nixon made a strong impression during his first interview with a FBI recruiting agent.  He had a “good” (not “excellent”) appearance, dressed “neat” (not “flashy”), had “ordinary” features and had no “jowl physical defects.”

Venereal disease? Redacted.

Sadly, due to a b(6) exemption, the section that listed which (if any) venereal diseases Nixon possessed has been redacted.

He was “self confident” and “well-poised,” but not “boastful.”  He “quickly” answered questions in a “tactful” manner.  In his spare time he said he took “an occasional social drink of liquor” and liked to play hand ball and poker.  He was a poor typist but appeared to be “resourceful,” had no foreign accent, and -get this!- “perhaps” had “executive ability.”

Nixon’s character references were also glowing.  A reference from Whittier College stated than Nixon had  “unprecedented popularity.”  A woman who rented him a room at Duke described him as “likable and trustworthy.”   Nixon’s hometown neighbor described him as “a fine fellow who has never caused any trouble at any time.”

"Perhaps" Nixon had executive ablity.

Despite his excellent application and references, Nixon did not get offered a job with the FBI.  A 15 August 1937 form instructed the Bureau to, “cancel the appointment” with no explanation.  In 1954 Nixon gave a graduation speech to the FBI National Academy in which he mentioned that “he never heard anything from that application.” After this, the FBI reopened his file and determined that Nixon was not granted an appointment because he had expressed interest in taking the California Bar exam, which –apparently– interfered with the FBI’s inflexible timetable.

... But he couldn't type.

Nixon was indeed admitted to the California bar, served as a logistics officer during WW2, was elected to the House of Representatives, used the House Un-American Activities Committee to propel himself to the Senate, served as Eisenhower’s Vice President, lost to Kennedy in the 1960 election, lost the California’s governor race, proclaimed “you won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore,” was elected President in 1968 and 1972, and finally resigned in the face of impeachment after hiring criminals to break into Democratic campaign offices to ensure he would be reelected.

This FBI file certainly got one thing right:  Dick Nixon possessed “outstanding ambition.”

2 Comments leave one →
  1. areddy permalink
    July 27, 2010 9:42 pm

    Hi Nate, I’ve found your FOIA Tips very helpful in drafting a request. I have a few questions that I hope you might be able to address, but I wasn’t able to find your email address anywhere. How could I get in touch with you?

    • Nate Jones permalink
      July 29, 2010 1:45 pm

      Hey! If you write an email to the Archive’s address, it will get through to me. nsarchiv at gwu.edu

      (no e after archive.)

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