Political Career Pre-Presidency
Political Career Pre-Presidency
Congressman, Senator, VP

Nixon as Congressman

Representative from California's 12th District
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Congressman Nixon
Richard Nixon was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from California's 12th district.
  • He was in office January 3, 1947 – November 30, 1950

Updated July 2024
Posted January 2024

CONGRESS1946 First Campaign
Nixon enters the political arena and defeats a veteran Opponent.
  • In 1946 Nixon embarked on his first campaign, running for Congress against five-term Democratic incumbent Jerry Voorhis
  • Nixon defeated Voorhis with 55 percent of the vote, even winning Voornis's hometown, and at 33 years old became Congressman of California's 12th District
Working long hours and financing the campaign from his and Pat's savings from the war years, Nixon developed many of the elements that would come to define his campaigning style, including his focus on the threat of communism at home and abroad.

Nixon 1946

CONGRESS1947 The Herter Committee
Nixon's visit to war-torn Europe cements his opposition to communism and commences his habit of note-taking.
  • In the summer of 1947, Nixon traveled to Western Europe with the House Select Committee on Foreign Aid, led by Congressman Christian Herter, to assess post-war conditions and evaluate the wisdom of Secretary of State George Marshall's plan to send American financial aid for rebuilding.
  • Visiting areas of France, Germany, Italy, and Greece, Nixon became convinced that the Marshall Plan was the best way to halt the spread of communism on the continent.

During the Herter committee's time in Europe, Nixon began what would become a lifelong practice: making extensive notes on yellow legal pads of his impressions, conversations, and more.

RICHARD NIXONIt was clear that we had come to a continent tottering on the brink of starvation and chaos ... Europe would be plunged into anarchy, revolution, and, ultimately, communism.

Nixon 80th Congress
80th Congress
  • Freshmen members of the 80th Congress including John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon

Nixon House Chamber
House Chamber
  • Richard Nixon sits alone as a new Congressman on the Republican side of the aisle in the House Chamber

Nixon House Restaurant
January 3, 1947
  • The new Congressman Nixon meets veteran House members at the door to the House restaurant.

Nixon Chowder & Marching Club
The Chowder & Marching Club
Soon after he arrived in Washington as a new Congressman, Nixon co-founded the colorfully named Chowder & Marching Club.
  • This group of 15 Republican freshman and junior Congressmen met weekly on Wednesdays and functioned as an opportunity for young, like minded legislators to meet and strategize and share information.
Through these weekly sessions with fellow Congressmen, Nixon found that he was able to inspire a sense of camaraderie and build lasting political friendships. The ability to form a consensus - and even kick back and relax - among his peers would serve him well throughout his career.

RICHARD NIXONAll of us were young, all of us were new members of Congress. All of us were veterans of World War II.

CONGRESS1948 Second Campaign
Nixon builds political capital campaigning for others.
  • When Nixon was up for reelection in 1948, he ran unopposed.

With his reelection guaranteed, Nixon used the time to campaign and raise money for other Republicans all across the country - a habit of party support he would continue for the next two decades.

CONGRESS1948 The Hiss Case
The Hiss Case makes Nixon a national figure
  • In December Chambers produced new evidence: a roll of microfilm that contained photographs of secret documents that Hiss had stolen and given him for passing on to Moscow - including documents with Hiss's handwriting. These became the central evidence in the trial that led to Hiss's conviction on two counts of perjury.
  • In August 1948 in a series of sessions before the House Un-American Activities Committee Nixon listened as 3 confessed ex-communist named Whittaker Chambers accused a respected former State Department official named Alger Hiss of having been a communist during the 1930s.
  • The committee was impressed with Hiss's protestations of innocence, but Nixon was not convinced and persuaded the committee to continue the investigation.

It was largely because of Nixon's prominent role in the Hiss case that only four years later, Dwight Elsenhower chose Nixon to be his Vice Presidential running mate.

Nixon Pumpkin Papers
Pumpkin Papers
Richard Nixon and chief investigator Robert Stripling examine the "Pumpkin Papers" microfilm obtained from Whittaker Chambers - December 1948

Nixon Hiss Case
Nixon's handwritten notes on the Hiss Case
Instances where Hiss changed story?

Nixon HUAC

Dwight D EisenhowerThe thing that most impressed me was that you not only got Hiss, but you got him fairly.

- 1951

Nixon Thimbles
These thimbles from Nixon's first Congressional campaign targeted women voters and drew a connection between his opponent Jerry Voorhis and CIO PAC, a labor group alleged to have communist affiliations.