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Campaign 1972:  Nixon Through the Lens

President Richard Nixon's personal photographer Ollie Atkins and the White House Photo Office team captured a slice of Americana during the landslide re-election campaign despite a backdrop of social unrest, the Vietnam War, and political rumblings.  And his people captured him back.

Capturing the President and His People
Having acquired the services of esteemed photojournalist Ollie Atkins for his 1968 Campaign, Nixon continued to rely on Atkins to lead the photographers from the White House Photo Office (WHPO) in documenting a historical narrative for his 1972 re-election campaign.  This exhibit highlights the collected works of Ollie Atkins and fellow WHPO photographers, whose images display a crafted realism that often reflect an American charm reminiscent of the popular American artist Norman Rockwell.  Interestingly, Rockwell and Atkins both worked for the Saturday Evening Post.  In these images, the American people are as important as their President. (Photo: Ollie Atkins in the White House Press Office looking at some shots of the President and First Lady. Photo by Robert L. Knudsen)

On the day of the Presidential Elections in 1972, Ollie Atkins takes pictures mid-flight on Air Force One (Kissinger in Foreground).

November 7, 1972 - Like image of the U.S. map projected on the back of the plane, Nixon would take 49 of the 50 states in a landslide re-election.

Ticker Tape & Parades - 70's Americana
Parades are often a demonstration to celebrate a returning victor.  The Romans did it.  So did Nixon's re-election campaign - from city to city.  Nixon went on to win 49 of 50 states in landslide victory despite the telegraphing here of an impending Watergate (see sign in crowd). Depicted here on Sept. 26, 1972, President and First Lady Pat Nixon rode through a ticker tape parade in Atlanta, Georgia before an estimated crowd of 500,000 - shattering the image of the "Solid South" that favored the Democratic Party exclusively.  (Photo by Jack Kightlinger)

Signs for McGovern for President are seen in the crowd.

The new age of the personal camera is shown here.

The lone foreboding sign - "Tell Us About Watergate."

The Blue Majorette
In this historical pictorial moment, Ollie Atkins captured an image for the ages - one of Americana and youthful ebullience.  In a sea of red, white, and blue, A child majorette in blue is hoisted atop Nixon's motorcade in Atlanta, Georgia. Carrying baton and American flag in hand, she raises her right arm triumphantly, seeming to lead the massive crowd in celebration of the nation's "conquering hero."  (Photo by Ollie Atkins)

First Lady Pat Nixon grasps hand of young girl during motorcade.

In a New York motorcade, Nixon is engulfed by a swarm of outreached hands...

....and a classic 70's power fist.

In Ohio motorcade, Nixon raises the Key to the City of Aurora to the crowd...

...while young people get the best view sitting in the trees.

In Laredo, Texas, Nixon is cheered on by the Hispanic crowd.

Viva USA.

Mano a Mano
Not naturally comfortable in the limelight, Richard Nixon appears as a different creature amongst his adoring public. The intimacy of these next campaign pictures belie that image of introversion and that of the Nixon "Imperial Presidency." Children flock, men's arms are outreached and grasped heartily, and even women embrace warmly this seemingly incongruous President.  Ollie Atkins and his team capture that exuberance of the crowd as well as a poignancy expressed in their faces and actions that still reflect a level of innocence in office of the Presidency and of the country itself.  (Photo by Robert L. Knudsen)

At Homestead Air Force Base in Florida, Nixon is exuberantly welcomed by airmen.

An image of racial solidarity.

Nixon greets enthusiastic fans at the Loredo Air Force Base airport in Texas.

Working on that perfect shot.

Airman grasps hand of Nixon versus taking a picture of the President. In that, an image for the ages is created.

Faces of the children.

Iconic image of Nixon amid the outstretched hands of young students in Utica, Michigan.

A little girl diligently works her camera on the right. On the left, a captivating biracial young boy's face with outstretched hand is indelibly captured.

Teenage girls at Dwight D. Eisenhower High school in Utica, Michigan greet Nixon while First Lady Pat Nixon looks on.

The varied expressions of the young teenage girls.

In Harlingen, Texas, a teenage girl hugs the President amongst the young band members and Secret Service.

The smile speaks volumes.

Also in Harlingen, Texas, another woman enthusiastically embraces the President...

...while the Secret Service can't help but grin.

The Crowds
His predecessor Lyndon B. Johnson called Nixon a "chronic campaigner."  And campaign he did in 1972 as crowds amassed in numerous events and rallies.  In this important image, Ollie Atkins captures the last political campaign of Richard Nixon's political career.  President Nixon understood the nature of this moment as he stated: "This is my last rally.... my last campaign appearance for public office.  It is fitting that it should be here in California."  Approximately 50,000 Nixon supporters gathered at Ontario International Airport, cheering and engulfing the happy President one last time.   

Nixon leans into the sea of supporters at his last political campaign rally in Ontario, California.

50,000 people strong while a sole sign "Labor for Nixon" is visible.

Another huge crowd is witnessed here at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, New York on Oct. 23, 1972.

16,000 people packed the stadium, appearing to almost engulf the President. The huge array of news cameramen can be seen in the background.

The Stage is Set
Conventions are all about stagecraft.  The 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, Florida was all that and more.  Celebrities, delegates, supporters, theatrical sets, cameras, stage, and television were all present to welcome the incumbent President as he received his party's nomination for the last time.  It would be hard to imagine from all this celebration that outside these walls approximately 3,000 anti-Vietnam War protestors harassed entering delegates and anyone entering the convention. Hundreds of protestors were arrested and many others injured in clashes with the police.  But the show - and the elections - must go on. (Photo by Karl Schumacher)

Longtime allies Nixon and iconic entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr. headline the Young Voters for the President campaign rally at the Miami Marine Stadium on Aug. 22, 1972.

In the age of the personal camera, President Nixon can't help but take his own picture on stage of Sammy Davis, Jr.

Legendary Sammy Davis, Jr. claps. Shortly afterwards, he would hug Nixon in an infamous shot that shook many of their mutual supporters and cultures.

The First Lady welcomes the delegates and is about to introduce the President of the United States.

Celebrity and political giants look on: Governor Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and Jimmy Stewart.

First Lady Pat Nixon graces the stage with outstretched arms.

Stagecraft at its finest.

Delegates await the word of the President.

And the media is set.

Delegates look up towards Nixon atop the towering podium on stage.

At the height of his campaign and Presidency, Nixon looks out to the enraptured crowd and recording media outlets.

On Aug. 23, 1972, Nixon accepts the Republican nomination for Presidency. He stands aloft the high podium while supporters and even media applaud.

A sign of things to come, literally. The popular Democratic Presidential candidate George McGovern would soon face a terrible defeat in 1972.

The classic dropping of the balloons from the convention ceiling.

The convention ends in this exultant celebration in red, white, and blue. This emblematic symbol of an enthusiastic political patriotism would not be seen for quite some time, if ever.

Camera, lights, action. Even here the shot of Nixon taking his vote must be carefully staged.

On Nov. 7, 1972 in a small polling place at Concordia Middle School in San Clemente, California, Nixon and the First Lady interact with the polling volunteers to cast their votes.

The re-election of Richard Nixon as President of the United States on Nov. 7, 1972 is a historical landslide victory. He was back in the White House again. Yet on Aug, 9th, 1974, this would end.

This historical shot by the White House Photo Office is taken on the day the President announced his resignation. From triumph to dissolution. And so did a slice of Americana go with it too.

Credits: Exhibit

Courtesy of the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives.

Curator and Writer: Sonya Vega True

Co-Curator: Pamla Eisenberg

Editor and Co-Writer: Greg Cummings

Credits: All media
The exhibit featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.