Friday, January 21, 2011

Six degrees of Richard Nixon

Can you work out your six (or fewer) degrees of separation from Richard Nixon? Yes, that Richard Nixon. Comments from Normann on my post about syllabus week have moved me to pose this question.

My Nixon number is two. I have met bassist Milt Hinton and trumpeter Clark Terry, both of whom played at Duke Ellington’s seventieth-birthday party in the Nixon White House (1969). I have another link that is both more and less solid: as a student, I spent a summer proofreading at Rogers & Wells (cap rogers amp cap wells, in proofspeak). Rogers was William P. Rogers, Nixon’s first Secretary of State. I never met Rogers, though, and I’m not sure that he was ever in the building.

But again, can you work out your six (or fewer) degrees of separation from Richard Nixon? You’re welcome to show how in the comments.

Related reading at Wikipedia
Six degrees of separation
Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon
Erdős number

[Richard Nixon, in his first presidential debate with John F. Kennedy, September 26, 1960. Photograph (here cropped) by Paul Schutzer. From the Life Photo Archive.]

comments: 8

Ben said...

Through you, three degrees of separation!

Daughter Number Three said...

I guess I would be the same number removed as you, although I can't be too specific. A friend is a member of the Dulles family. I assume one of his uncles/great uncles would have met Nixon.

stefan said...

I once had dinner with Jeff Tweedy who, along with Billy Bragg, recorded two albums of Woody Guthrie songs. Woody Guthrie was born on July 14th, the same day as Gerald Ford, who was Nixon's VP. (It's also worth noting that Guthrie's son Arlo wrote "Alice's Restaurant, a song that is exactly as long as the gap in the Nixon tapes.) Does that count? Is that four?

Joy Rothke said...

I went to college with his nephew, Richard "Dick" Nixon in 1972.

William V. Madison said...

I have several routes, some surprising but none more so than that of my own father. Watching the David Frost interviews with Nixon (when they were broadcast the first time), Dad mused, "You know, I never liked Nixon from the day I met him."

Kids at the time, my brother and I were shocked. Somehow Dad had made it all the way through Nixon's presidency without mentioning that he'd known the guy. It turns out that his role in Eisenhower's campaign in 1952 was sufficiently exalted to afford him several encounters with and an official introduction to the vice-presidential candidate — who gave him the creeps.

After the Chicago convention, Dad went into the Navy. I've often wondered what might have been, had he stuck with the campaign and followed Ike to Washington. A job in the State Department, for example, would have been easily within Dad's grasp. But then — would he have been offered a job in the Nixon administration?

I'm grateful to Nixon's singular unpleasantness for making sure that there was never any chance of Dad's being a co-conspirator — or that I might be your lone Degree of Separation.

(The lack of charm did not, alas, prevent Dad from voting for Nixon — three times. Them's the breaks.)

Michael Leddy said...

Bill, thanks for telling a remarkable story.

And thanks, everyone, for sharing your Nixon connections here.

Sarah said...

My degree is one, I personally know someone who was a speech writer for Nixon.

Elaine Fine said...

I just saw this picture, and, since I talked to Leonard Bernstein once, I have just two degrees of separation with Richard Nixon.