Richard Nixon: California’s Native Son

Potomac. Sept. 2023. 448p. ISBN 9781640125605. $36.95. BIOG
With Richard Nixon being an unending subject of study, attorney Carter (creator of the map Native Son: Richard Nixon’s Southern California) concentrates on the relatively little-analyzed pre-political and extra-political influences on this only California-born U.S. president. Excelling in academics and aspiring to do the same in athletics, Nixon earned early respect as the second of five boys in an often economically challenged Quaker family, becoming a World War II naval officer, then a lawyer. Based on largely untapped primary sources—reminiscences of teachers, mentors, and colleagues who knew Nixon well—the book shows how California formed Nixon and how he in turn influenced the state. With extant sources in repositories at Cal-State Fullerton, Whittier College, UC-Berkley, UCLA, and NARA, Carter conducts more than 60 interviews and draws upon selected parts of Nixon’s presidential daily diary, which is more than 10,000 pages; there is also a foreword to the book by Tricia Nixon Cox, a daughter of the president. Buttressing the conclusions of authors such as Irv Gellman, Conrad Black, John Farrell, and Evan Thomas, Carter underlines the decided differences between Nixon’s public perception and private person.
VERDICT A favorable, felicitously fashioned retrospective that helps readers see that Nixon led a substantial and transformative life. This book offers a key to comprehending the relational, emotional, and social contexts that led to his political and psychological formation.
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