Nixon had a difficult early life with many trials and hardships, which affected his character and way of thinking about the world and himself. The premature death of two of his brothers caused him deep-rooted trauma. He had a lifelong inability to trust other people. From the competition between his siblings, he got a keen sense of competition and struggle and a belief that in the end, he was alone against fate and his enemies. He believed vehemently that “The mark of the man is to be resilient and continually return after set-backs.” Nixon believed that the successful competitor never lets his enemies have the final say in a contest of will. Some of his cruel attempts to discredit his political enemies may have come from the regular beatings his father used to keep Nixon in line. Nixon’s ambition was the theme of his life story.
Nixon was born in Orange County, California on January 9, 1913, the second of five sons of Francis A. and Hannah Milhaus Nixon. The Nixons were longtime members of the Society of Friends, more commonly known as Quakers. Nixon was nine at the time that his family moved to Whittier, California, where his father owned and operated a local gasoline station and country store. He attended public schools until the age of 17, when he entered Whittier Collage, a small local Quaker institution. Success in student politics and strong debating skills crowned Nixon’s collage years. Upon graduation in 1934, he won a scholarship to Duke Law School in Durham, N.C. Since his family was short of funds to pay for his lodging and books, he got a part time job. He graduated 3rd in his class and was elected president of the Duke Bar Association. Nixon looked forward to a career with the FBI in Washington, D.C., but returned instead to Whittier to join the town's oldest law firm. When the firm opened a branch office in La Habra, he transferred there and got some excellent practical experience.
Early in World War II, Nixon worked for six months in the Office of Emergency Management; an experience which he said disillusioned him with bureaucracy. At a play tryout during this time, Nixon met Thelma Patricia Ryan, a schoolteacher, whom he married on June 21, 1940. Though he wanted to move to a big city firm to be able to better support his new wife, World War II brought him to Washington, where he worked in the tire-rationing section of the Office of Price Administration. In August 1942 he joined the Navy as a lieutenant. He served in New Caledonia for the remainder of the war. He left the service four years later, in 1946
Before Nixon's release from active duty, Nixon decided to run for Congress. Nixon's campaign was an example of the aggressive style characteristic of his political career. He accused his opponent of being "soft" on Communism. In 1946, when the Cold War between the United States and the USSR was just beginning, this charge was very damaging. The two men confronted each other in a series of debates, and Nixon...