On the Team

While attending college at Whittier, Richard Nixon demonstrated that he could be a team player.

Nixon joined the football team and despite the cocky photo (below) mostly warmed the bench. He formed a close bond with his coach Wallace Newman, the man everyone in the 1930s referred to as “Chief” because of his American Indian heritage. “Show me a good loser,” the coach reportedly said, “and I’ll show you a loser.” The 1933 football program (far below) documents the early days of an on-going rivalry between Whittier and Occidental College.



Listen to Nixon tell interviewer Frank Gannon about his relationship with Coach Newman and the sports injury that almost ruined an election celebration. Click on Benchwarming and broken teeth.

During a speech that presidential candidate Nixon delivered on August 2, 1960, at the college’s Hadley Field (now the site of the Stauffer Science Center), he remembered his days on the football team, “the dedication of the faculty,” the “Whittier spirit,” and the “lessons” he learned as a college student.  Click on Lessons learned at Whittier to read the entire speech.

Wardman Gymnasium, where Nixon played basketball, is now Wardman Art Center (below).

Wardman Art Center (front facade, partial view, ca. 2003), Whittier College

When the existing men’s society–Whittier had no fraternities–shunned Nixon, he turned to football teammates to form a new group, the Orthogonians.  The Orthogonians dedicated a campus fountain to his memory (below with Wardman Library in the background). For his athletic enthusiasm and, no doubt because of his celebrity, the college added him to the Athletic Hall of Fame (far below).

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 In an interview with Frank Gannon, preserved at the University of Georgia, Nixon talks about his role as a founding member of the Orthogonian Society at Whittier, and his visit to a speakeasy. Click on Creating your own team.

surprise-logoIt may surprise you that in 1937 Richard Nixon applied to join a very different team–the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Nixon’s application to become a special agent includes a record of interviews including with college faculty. The interviewing agent thought Nixon was well-poised, self-confident, and tactful. He appeared neat (rather than “flashy”) with ordinary features (not “dissipated”), and answered questions quickly.  To read the actual application, and discover whether Nixon was recommended for employment, click on Special agent Nixon?


Richard Nixon and George Allen (center beside the president) had Whittier College in common–Allen coached the college football team before moving on to the sport’s professional leagues. In 1971, Allen actually invited Nixon–the two men had become friends–to an Washington team practice to boost morale. Photo by Oliver Atkins