Richard Nixon was an odd president, an even more unusual, paranoid man, and he did many strange things while he was running the country. Perhaps the strangest incident while he was living in The White House came one night, on an impromptu visit to the Lincoln Memorial.
The visit was made at four in the morning of May 9, 1970, when the Vietnam War was raging. Nixon was conflicted about the War, not wanting to be the first president to lose a conflict, although it seemed more and more likely to be the case. Just five days earlier, a protest at Kent State college in Ohio had turned into a riot and four students had lost their lives. So, needless to say, much was weighing on Nixon’s mind when he took his butler to see the Lincoln Memorial.
That’s right, Nixon took his butler and friend, Manolo, to see the Lincoln Memorial in the middle of the night, and was met there by a host of anti-war protestors, mostly college-aged kids, who were sleeping on the steps of the memorial.
Most accounts of the interaction between the president and protestors describe the president as nonsensical, mumbling, drifting off in mid conversation. Most of the students were from Syracuse University and were sleeping on the steps of the Memorial in protest of an American War, and Nixon’s mind stayed on football. “I hope it was because he was tired, but most of what he was saying was absurd,” one of the Syracuse students told the press. “Here we had come from a university that’s completely uptight, on strike, and when we told him where we were from, he talked about the football team.”
“He didn’t look anyone in the eyes,” another eyewitness claimed. “He was mumbling. When people asked him to speak up he would boom one word and no more. As far as sentence structure, there was none.”
Of course, Richard Nixon’s memories of the meeting are vastly different in his own memoir, but Nixon was known to embellish his own legacy all the way to his final days.
Of all the strange and curious things Richard Nixon did during his abbreviated tenure in The White House, the late night sojourn and subsequent visit with college kids at the Lincoln Memorial has to be the top of the list.