On August 8, 1974, President Richard Nixon became the first (and so far, only president to resign from office.
His resignation came after his involvement in one of the most infamous and studied moments in American politics was revealed. Of course, that was the Watergate Scandal of 1972.
The Watergate scandal occurred when Republican campaign workers broke into the headquarters of the Democratic party in June of 1972. The Watergate scandal earned its name, since the Democratic party was headquartered in an office building known as the Watergate. Five men were arrested for the break-in.
The FBI found cash on the five burglars that was later connected to a slush fund (money used for illicit purposes, including political bribery) that was used y the Committee for the Re-Election of the President, which was an official organization of the Nixon campaign.
At first, it seemed as though that the entire scandal would have little to no impact on Nixon's presidency at all, as he was re-elected by a landslide in the 1972 election. However, investigative reporting by the media of the time, namely two reporters at The Washington Post named Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, would eventually bring the scandal back into the headlines.
Woodward and Bernstein, through anonymous sources, would later discover possible prior knowledge of the break and a possible cover-up by the White House and other powerful political agencies. Years later, the source would be revealed as William Mark Felt, former deputy director of the FBI. The work of the two reporters has been immortalized, both in print and onscreen, in the film "All The President's Men."
Finally, the scandal blew wide open when it was revealed that President Nixon had a tape-recording system in his offices and that he had recorded many conversations. The tape recordings later showed that Nixon had tried to cover up shady events following the break-in, implicating himself in one of the biggest American political scandals.
Facing possible impeachment, Nixon resigned the presidency. Several of his close aides would also resign, and some even served time in prison, including the Attorney General of the United States. Nixon resigned his presidency in a national televised press conference.
40 years after Nixon's resignation, Watergate still remains a highly studied and talked-about chapter of American politics. The impact of the scandal led to several changes in the campaign financing system, although more recent Supreme Court decisions have changed some of those reforms.
While the Watergate scandal remains controversial and divisive, the fact remains that it is an important chapter of history. Also, had it not been for the diligent work of two reporters the scandal may not have ever been revealed.