Sixty-three years ago today, businessman Herman Perry wrote a letter to Richard Nixon asking him if he was interested in running for a seat in the House of Representatives. At the time, incumbent Democrat Jerry Voorhis was representing the 12th congressional district of California. Nixon was a young up-and-coming attorney, a graduate of Duke University Law School, and a naval officer during World War II who had returned to his hometown of Whittier to work at an established law firm. “I am writing this short note to ask you if you would like to be a candidate for Congress on the Republican ticket in 1946,” Perry’s letter said. “Jerry Voorhis expects to run—registration is about 50-50. The Republicans are gaining. Please airmail me your reply if you are interested.”
On October 6, 1945, Nixon drafted a reply. “I feel very strongly that Jerry Voorhis can be beaten and I’d welcome the opportunity to take a crack at him. An aggressive, vigorous campaign on a platform of practical liberalism should be the antidote the people have been looking for to take the place of Voorhis’ particular brand of New Deal idealism. You can be sure that I’ll do everything possible to win if the party gives me the chance to run,” he wrote. “I’m sure that I can hold my own with Voorhis on the speaking platform, and without meaning to toot my own horn, I believe I have the fight, spirit and background which can beat him.”
In 1946, Nixon defeated Voorhis for his first political victory. The rest, as they say, is history.