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As an 18-year-old high school graduate a couple of weeks from starting college, I remember holding the microphone from my cassette recorder to my parent’s stereo in our small Oklahoma town to record President Richard Nixon’s August 8 resignation address to the nation.
Afterward, I stepped outside our home’s front door, gazing upward towards the cloudless blue sky on a beautiful summer evening to let the history of that moment settle in. I still have that cassette tape. I can still quote key phrases from the speech from memory. I had just made my first trip to Washington a month earlier, on my way to Canada as part of an International Air Cadet Exchange Program. I’d seen how the final throes of Watergate had gripped the nation’s capital. Tumultuous times.
For two years, America would slowly become gripped in the drama that began with a “third-rate burglary” at Washington’s Watergate complex into gripping Senate hearings led by Democrat Sam Ervin (D-NC), along with ranking Republican Howard Baker (R-TN). Lead counsels Sam Dash (Democrat) and Fred Thompson (Republican) became household names. One later became a famous actor and US Senator. I recall watching the House Judiciary Committee’s dramatic roll call vote on three articles of impeachment. A future boss, then-freshman Rep. Trent Lott (R-MS), voted no on all three articles. Nixon, of course, chose to resign instead of facing certain votes for impeachment and conviction. He, again, spared the nation a prolonged crisis.