richard nixon

Richard Nixon

January 20, the date of this publication, may pass the attention of many, but it plays an important part in history.   

Since 1937, starting with the second term of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, every elected chief executive has taken office on Jan. 20.  Harry S. Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson took their first oath upon the in-office deaths of their superiors – FDR and John F. Kennedy, respectively.

Gerald R. Ford was the only president since ’37 who never took his oath on Jan. 20. The one-termer took office Aug. 9, 1974, upon the resignation of Richard M. Nixon.

Speaking of Nixon, he took office 50 years ago today. He took office at one of the most auspicious periods in modern history.

It’s far different in many ways from today, but very similar in others.

We’ll start out in the simple terms, right at home.

Looking at our area, Denham Springs was a much smaller community and Interstate 12 was still three years away from of its opening. Ask those who remember that era, and they’ll recall a city much smaller in population, and one without the congestion that now greets us day and night along Range Avenue at I-12.

The same applies for Florida Boulevard (U.S. 190). Outside the area within the city limits of Denham Springs, that route was largely a desolate stretch of highway east of Sherwood Forest on to Hammond.

John McKeithen was into his second term as governor, the “new” Mississippi River Bridge in Baton Rouge was less than a year old (when it was actually new) and plans were already two years in progress on a New Orleans facility called “The Superdome.”

Nationally, the year 1969 figures well in the mix of stories about a strange, turbulent and rapidly changing nation – one vastly different from what it was less than a decade earlier. Much of what happened that year remains focal points of discussion today, largely because of how it reshaped our nation.

The Vietnam War was at its peak and o were demonstrations against it. Racial tensions remained at a fever pitch as integration – and the resistance thereof – continued in many parts of the country.

Both issues fueled a divisive nature among Americans, young and old, and the same could be said about President Nixon.

The year also brought to the forefront the name Charles Manson, one of the most notorious murderers of the 20th century. It also marked the year Ted Kennedy became forever associated with Chappaddick, related to a single-car accident on the island of the same name, in which he swam to safety and left behind passenger Mary Jo Kopechne, who was trapped inside the vehicle and left to perish.

Much closer to home, Hurricane Camille battered the Mississippi Gulf Coast and went down in history as the most destructive storm until Andrew in 1992 and Katrina in 2005.

On a happier note, it marked the year Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon, as part of the Apollo program. “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” remains one of the best-remembered quotations of the 20th century.

It also marked the year of Woodstock, a three-day concert on a dairy farm in Bethel, N.Y., which drew more than 400,000 to see performers such as Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, Santana, Credence Clearwater Revival and Crosby, Stills and Nash, among others. The Beatles released “Abby Road,” the final album they completed before their breakup.

I’ve only scratched surface, and I didn’t even touch on movies such as “Easy Rider” and “Midnight Cowboy,” or TV shows as opposite as “Laugh-In” and “Hee Haw,” both very popular that year.

It was a strange time indeed. Judging from the current landscape of a divided nation in terms of politics and opposition on foreign affairs, as well as the rapid advancements in technology (self-driving cars), one can only imagine how our nation will look in another 50 years.

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