Richard Nixon: The Shaping of His Character

By Fawn M. Brodie | Go to book overview
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XXXII

The New York Years

WHEN NIXON UNDERLINED what he himself believed was a definitive break with politics by moving to New York in 1963, he joined what Witcover called "a stodgy antique," the firm of Mudge, Stern, Baldwin and Todd, at a salary of $250,000 a year. His friends, who knew it was impossible for him to drop totally out of politics, did the scouting for him. As one member of the firm told Witcover later, "there just weren't too many places where he could get two hundred and fifty thousand dollars and all his time." 1 But the backwater firm soon became one of the fastest growing on Wall Street. Nixon in the beginning brought in the lucrative Pepsi-Cola account through his friend Donald M. Kendall, as well as the retainer for Robert Abplanalp's Precision Valve Corporation. 2 Later he forced a retraction from a newspaperman who had said he worked for the law firm only one day a week. 3

The Nixons moved into a twelve-room apartment overlooking Central Park at 810 Fifth Avenue, in the same building as Nelson Rockefeller. They paid $135,000 for it, with an annual maintenance of between eight and ten thousand dollars. They put in $50,000 worth of improvements, and sold it in 1968 for $312,000. In the beginning he was described in the press as a "happy New Yorker." He joined the fashionable Metropolitan Club, which gave a reception in his honor. He joined also the Links and Recess Clubs, and country clubs in Westchester and New Jersey. His daughters went to the Chapin school; Tricia later went to Finch College and Julie to Smith. Both were featured in debutante balls in New York. The Nixons went often to the theater. "I like every play I've ever seen," Nixon told Robert Donovan, and added that Aïda was his favorite opera. He was driven to work by a chauffeur in a black Cadillac, so that he would have "an hour extra a day for reading." 4 It was all very orthodox behavior for the very rich. The

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