Share this article

print logo

NATIONAL DAY OF MOURNING TO HONOR NIXON; TRIBUTES POUR IN FOR 37TH PRESIDENT OF U.S.

President Clinton has declared Wednesday a national day of mourning for Richard M. Nixon, the 37th president of the United States, who died Friday in New York.

Federal government offices will be closed and mail delivery will be halted for the day, the White House said. Clinton also directed that the U.S. flag be flown at half-staff, including at diplomatic and military installations abroad, for 30 days.

Services for Nixon, who was 81, will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Richard M. Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, Calif. The Rev. Billy Graham will officiate at the funeral, where Clinton, Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole, R-Kan.; California Gov. Pete Wilson; and Henry A. Kissinger, who served as secretary of state during Nixon's administration, will deliver eulogies.

Former Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George Bush planned to attend, the library said.

Nixon's body will be flown to California on Tuesday from a New York-area funeral home, bypassing Washington and forgoing a state ceremony in the Rotunda of the Capitol.

Nixon will receive a 21-gun salute before and after he is flown from Stewart Air Force base in New York to El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in El Toro, Calif., according to the U.S. Army Military District in Washington.

The send-off will include a military band. Bearers representing the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, Navy and Coast Guard will carry Nixon's casket from a hearse, through a joint-service cordon, to a C-137 that will not bear the presidential seal.

Officials at the presidential library in Yorba Linda said crowds began gathering there Friday night, shortly after Nixon's death was announced by Clinton. There was a steady stream of mourners there Saturday, paying tribute to the former president and his fighting spirit.

In his proclamation and in a separate message to Congress, Clinton said the nation "will always owe" Nixon "a special debt for opening diplomatic doors to Beijing and Moscow during his presidency." Clinton also praised Nixon's efforts to improve the nation's welfare, law-enforcement and health-care systems.

Clinton, in his proclamation, pointed out that Nixon once wrote, "I believe . . . that the richness of life is not measured by its length but by its breadth, its height and its depth."

Those words, Clinton said, are "a most fitting epitaph for his remarkable life. He suffered defeats that would have ended most political careers, yet he won stunning victories that many of the world's most popular leaders have failed to attain. On this solemn day, we recognize the significant value of his contributions to our nation, and we pray that he left us with enough of his wisdom to guide us safely into the next century."

Nixon suffered a stroke Monday in his home in Park Ridge, N.J. His daughters, Julie Eisenhower and Tricia Cox, were by his side when he died.

An administration official, who asked not to be identified, said Nixon's decision to forgo a state ceremony had been made in the last year or so during consultations with the Defense Department office that oversees state funerals. Pentagon officials declined comment.

Gerald L. Warren, Nixon's deputy press secretary from 1968 to 1974, said the former president had "a deep fondness for California and his California roots. It was very personal and very important to him. . . . I am not at all surprised that he chose not to have a major ceremony in Washington, because of his experiences near the end of his term in office."

But Daniel Schorr, a television correspondent during Watergate who made Nixon's "enemies list," said Nixon had recently told him of plans to establish a Richard Nixon Foreign Policy Institute here, which Schorr said would have been the culmination of Nixon's "long march back to Washington."

Nixon will be buried on the library grounds next to his wife, Pat, who died last year.

Leaders worldwide lauded Nixon for his bold foreign policy moves, with some of America's Cold War enemies most warm in their praise.

Chinese President Jiang Zemin and Premier Li Peng praised Nixon for his 1972 breakthrough visit to Beijing that began the rapprochement between China and the United States, and for his efforts to improve relations even after he resigned.

Nixon also was warmly remembered in Russia. President Boris Yeltsin said he was "one of the first major world politicians who have understood Russia and understood what it was fighting for."

Yeltsin had refused to meet with Nixon during his 10-day trip to Russia last month because the former president had met with some of Yeltsin's political opponents.

But Nixon is credited with establishing the policy of detente toward the Soviet Union during his presidency and, in recent years, with pushing for U.S. aid for Russia.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who was ambassador to the United States during Nixon's presidency, praised his support of Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War "in the face of the opposition of most of the world."

"I am convinced that history will recall the great role he played on the international scene," French President Francois Mitterrand said in extending condolences to his family.

The secretary-general of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, extending his condolences, called Nixon's impact in international affairs "especially significant."

Former adversaries reacted with respect.

"Mr. Nixon and I disagreed frequently on domestic policy, but he was a deeply dedicated American, a determined leader and an historic force for world peace," said former House Speaker Jim Wright, a Texas Democrat who served in the House for more than 30 years.

"I think Richard Nixon was on the political horizon during all the 40 years of my own public life, and during the last 15 years or so I came to a cordial relationship with him. And I'm going to very much regret his passing," said Democrat George McGovern, whose campaign to oust Nixon from the White House spawned the 1972 Watergate break-in.

Presidents who succeeded Nixon praised his work in foreign affairs.

"The difficulties he encountered in office may have diminished his presidency, but what should be remembered are his many outstanding achievements, both foreign and domestic," former President Bush said.

Former President Carter said Nixon's "foreign policy accomplishments laid important groundwork for efforts of the presidents who have succeeded him."

Former President Ford, who succeeded Nixon and pardoned him, lauded Nixon's foreign policy vision and acuity. "I happen to believe very strongly that Dick Nixon was one of the finest, if not the finest, foreign policy presidents of this century," Ford said.

"Today the world mourns the loss of a great champion of democratic ideals who dedicated his life to the cause of world peace. For millions, Richard Nixon was truly one of the finest statesman this world has ever seen," said former President Reagan.

"The world is a better place -- a safer place -- because of Richard Nixon," he said.

There are no comments - be the first to comment