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August 9: North Dakota Reacts to Nixon Resignation

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This week in 1974 brought a sudden change in Vice President Gerald Ford’s schedule when he abruptly cancelled a 12-day political excursion. The reason soon became apparent. The news leaked out, and a three-inch-high headline on the front page of The Fargo Forum screamed “Nixon to Quit!”

President Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace on August 8, and it was on this date in 1974 that Gerald Ford was sworn in as President.

Ford had cancelled his trip in order to meet with Nixon, who informed him of the decision to resign. He would be the first president to do so in American history.

Ford had previously succeeded former Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, who had resigned after a plea of no contest to a charge of evading income taxes.

North Dakota’s Senator Quentin Burdick and Representative Mark Andrews were quoted in the paper, saying they expected little difference as far as North Dakota is concerned as President Nixon handed leadership to Vice President Ford.

The back section of the Forum reported on reaction from residents of Northrop, Minnesota, a GOP stronghold.

A bartender said, “Sure, people are concerned, but I get the impression, although disappointed in him, they’re somewhat confused as to what they believe with all the different reports coming in every day.”

Another resident, who spent a lot of time conversing with townspeople while sitting on a park bench said: “I talked to over 100 people in town, and I think they are really confused about the whole affair. I don’t think he’s as guilty as everyone wants to make him out. I think a lot of people feel it’s been blown out of proportion.” He placed himself in that category, saying, “I think he’s done one hell of a good job and I don’t think anyone could stand up to an investigation like the one going on the way he has.”

The story ended with the reporter noting that a “Don’t blame me—I voted for McGovern” bumper sticker would be an unlikely sight in that Republican haven. But the local blacksmith, who was reassessing his political position, said, “I’ve usually voted Republican, but I’m going to have to do some thinking before voting again.”

As for Gerald Ford, his tenure as President would be rather short, losing to Jimmy Carter in 1976, though he did carry North Dakota.

Dakota Datebook by Steve Stark

Sources:
Thursday, August 8, 1974
The Forum, PP Front Page, P 14

Dakota Datebook is made in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota, and funded by Humanities North Dakota, a nonprofit, independent state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the program do not necessarily reflect those of Humanities North Dakota or the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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