This weekend marks the twentieth anniversary of the opening of the Richard Nixon Library, and the Orange County Register today devotes three articles to it. In one article, reporter Jessica Terrell describes the events planned to mark the occasion this weekend, including Saturday’s panel discussion on the Nixon legacy, Saturday night’s dinner featuring the famed Ben Stein, and Sunday morning’s cruise on John Wayne’s yacht.
Another article by Ms. Terrell recounts today’s ceremony at President and Mrs. Nixon’s gravesite, at which their daughter, Tricia Nixon Cox, and the President’s brother Ed placed a wreath.
And here is a column by the Register’s David Whiting, concerning the millions of pages of documents and many other materials recently transferred from the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, to the library in Yorba Linda:
[T]he stuff in this basement comprises one of the largest and most controversial collections of data of any presidential administration in American history.
There are 300,000 photographs, 2 million feet of film, 4,000 videos, 30,000 gifts, 4,500 audio recordings and 46 million pages of documents housed in tall stacks lined up over 15,000 square feet, about one-third of a football field.
And therein lies the challenge – finding what each one of us is looking for. Fortunately, there are skilled archivists to help.
Every once in a while the silence in the basement is broken by the click of a camera, the clunk of a copying machine, the clacking on a laptop. Each sound means someone’s just struck it rich in the mother of presidential mother loads – uncovering a gem of information that, quite possibly, hasn’t been seen since President Nixon, chief of staff H.R. “Bob” Haldeman and White House Counsel John Ehrlichman, plotted the future of the United States and the world.
Whiting writes about Bob Geerhart, patiently going through box after box of letters and telegrams sent in response to RN’s 1952 “Checkers” speech. (He mentions that Geerhart, when not pursuing research, works for Bear Family Records, a company famous among music fans for its comprehensive box sets of 1950s and early 1960s performers.) He also describes finding memos written by his own father, the late Allen Whiting, when the latter was working at the National Security Council in the Nixon era.
And don’t miss the first comment appended by a reader to Ms. Terrell’s article about the anniversary weekend. It’s from a stepchild of Hal Sachs, who served as a lifeguard for the City of San Clemente during the years when La Casa Pacifica there was RN’s Western White House. The commenter says that Sachs, who was also a surfer of considerable renown at beaches up and down the coast in those days, once was within minutes of getting the thirty-seventh President on a board and giving him a lesson at San Clemente’s celebrated Cotton Point – before the Secret Service stepped in and cancelled it on the grounds it was just too dangerous. (I have to wonder what happened last Christmas when President Obama went to the beach in Hawaii – or what will happen when he soon arrives in Martha’s Vineyard and, perhaps, ventures to Squibnocket Point with a board.)