United States v. Nixon
Today the Nixon Library begins a new series—Road to Resignation—which highlights President Nixon’s last few days in office.
On this day, July 24, 1974, Chief Justice Warren Burger announced the verdict of the Supreme Court in United States v. Nixon. It ruled that President Nixon’s “generalized interest in confidentiality” was not grounds for the crushing of a subpoena seeking the release of the tapes of his recorded conversations relating to the Watergate affair.
The vote was 8-0: Justice William Rehnquist, a former Nixon administration official, had recused himself. The Watergate Tapes were released as a result.
- Follow the final days of Nixon’s Presidency here.
- Listen to key moments compiled by the Nixon White House Tapes Team here — Richard Nixon Resigns the Presidency.
Photo: U.S. Supreme Court Justices, 1973. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.
Betty Ford Fields Questions on Women’s Rights, Premarital Sex, Breast Cancer, Drugs, and Anything Controversial — Today in 1975.
Morley Safer’s interviewed Betty Ford for the CBS news program “60 Minutes.” They taped the interview in the White House Solarium on July 21, 1975.
The “60 Minutes” segment marked Mrs. Ford’s first extensive, exclusive TV interview. Safer questioned her on a number of topics including her experiences as a politician’s wife, openness about her breast cancer, and support for women’s rights, particularly the Equal Rights Amendment.
Safer noted that unlike many political wives, for Betty Ford “the higher your husband’s gotten, the more really controversial things have been said.” This interview would be no exception. She called the Supreme Court’s ruling to legalize abortion “a great, great decision,” and discussed premarital sex and the possibility of her children using drugs.
After the segment aired on August 10 the White House received a deluge of negative comments regarding Mrs. Ford’s position on these issues. Public mail ran 2 to 1 against Mrs. Ford, although more positive comments came in over time. In the long run her approval rating increased after the controversy died down.
According to Sheila Weidenfeld, Mrs. Ford’s press secretary, the First Lady later sent Safer an autographed picture inscribed, “If there are any questions you forgot to ask – I’m grateful.”
-from the Ford Library
The “Court Packing” Plan — On This Day in 1937, FDR Proposes to Reorganize the Supreme Court
In November 1936, Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed to reorganize the federal judiciary by adding a new justice each time a justice reached age seventy and failed to retire. In this manner, the influence of older justices, including a number of conservatives, could be superseded by younger Roosevelt appointees supportive of the New Deal.
FDR’s “Court Packing Plan” was a response to a Supreme Court that was increasingly unwilling to support New Deal legislation. Upon announcement, it was widely opposed by the public, the press, and Congress. However, the Supreme Court did reverse course and began to uphold New Deal legislation. Read More at the Presidential Timeline
-from the FDR Library
A page from FDR’s reading copy of the Fireside Chat announcing the Supreme Court reorganization plan. 3/9/37.
Today in history: 32 years ago, Sandra Day O’Connor becomes the first woman to be sworn in as Supreme Court Justice.
President Ronald Reagan had nominated O’Connor to the Court one month earlier on August 19, 1981.
Photo: Sandra Day O’Connor being sworn in by Chief Justice Warren Burger. Her husband John O’Connor looks on. 9/25/81. U.S. Supreme Court.
-from the Reagan Library
The Voting Rights Act
On this day, August 6, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law.
Recently, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that impacts the Voting Rights Act of 1965. For historical perspective, the LBJ Library has collected related photographs, videos, and a telephone conversation here.
Photo: LBJ delivering remarks at the signing ceremony for the Voting Rights Act. Behind him is a statue of Abraham Lincoln. 8/6/65.
-from the LBJ Library
On this day in 1937, the U.S. Senate rejected President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s proposal to add more justices to the Supreme Court.
FDR’s “Court Packing” Plan was a proposal to reorganize the Supreme Court. In November 1936, after FDR won a sweeping reelection, he proposed to reorganize the federal judiciary by adding a new justice each time a justice reached age seventy and failed to retire. In this manner, the influence of older justices, including a number of conservatives, could be superseded by younger Roosevelt appointees supportive of the New Deal.
The “Court Packing Plan” was widely opposed by the public, the press, and Congress, and ultimately was rejected by the Senate on July 22, 1937. Read More.
Image: A page from FDR’s reading copy of the Fireside Chat announcing the Supreme Court reorganization plan. 3/9/37.
-from the Presidential Timeline
In commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Civil Liberties Act, the original Executive Order 9066 as well as the 1988 law are on display for a limited time in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.
“Here we admit a wrong. Here we affirm our commitment as a nation to equal justice under the law.” —President Ronald Reagan, remarks on signing the Civil Liberties Act of 1988
On February 19, 1942, ten weeks after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which permitted military commanders to “prescribe military areas … from which any or all persons may be excluded.” While the order did not mention any group by name, it profoundly affected the lives of Japanese Americans.
In March and April, Gen. John L. DeWitt issued a series of “Exclusion Orders” directed at “all persons of Japanese ancestry” in the Western Defense Command.
These orders led to the forced evacuation and incarceration of 120,000 Japanese American permanent residents and Japanese American citizens at 10 major camps and dozens of smaller sites. Held behind barbed wire and watched by armed guards, many Japanese Americans lost their homes and possessions. Congress passed laws enforcing the order with almost no debate, and the Supreme Court affirmed these actions.
Forty-six years later, President Ronald Reagan signed the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. The law, which was preceded by a detailed historical study by a congressional commission, judged the incarceration “a grave injustice” that was “motivated largely by racial prejudice, war hysteria, and a failure of political leadership.” It offered an apology and $20,000 in restitution to each survivor.
Image: Persons of Japanese ancestry arrive at the Santa Anita Assembly Center from San Pedro. Evacuees lived at this center at the former Santa Anita race track before being moved inland to relocation centers. Clem Albers, Arcadia, CA, April 5, 1942. (Photo No. 210-G-3B-414)
On this day in 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated Solicitor General Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to sit on the Supreme Court.
Born in Baltimore, Maryland, the future civil rights leader originally intended to study at nearby the University of Maryland School of Law, however, it remained segregated.
Instead, Marshall attended Howard University School of Law. Shortly after graduating, Marshall successfully challenged the segregated University of Maryland in Murray v. Pearson. Read More
Marshall remained on the Court until 1991.
Photo: President Lyndon B. Johnson meeting with Thurgood Marshall shortly before announcing Marshall’s nomination to the Supreme Court, June 13, 1967.