What if? Richard Nixon hoped to be FBI agent


In 1937 when Richard Nixon was 24 and fresh out of law school, he filled out an application to join the FBI.

The form is now on public display, perhaps for the first time, at the National Archives.

“It is a nice window into a moment in Richard Nixon’s life that people probably don’t think about,”  Jennifer Johnson, the curator of the exhibition tells Smithsonian Magazine. “He has just finished law school, and like everyone, he is clearly trying to figure out what he wants to do.”

The exhibit, Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures, examines more than 100 artifacts at the archives.

On the application, Nixon lists his weight (160), height (5′ 11″) and prior experience: He was a manager of a service station, a clerk in a grocer story, and at law school a library assistant and research assistant. He said he had been in good health in the prior three years: “No days of illness; two or three common, slight colds.”

Nixon got an interview and took a physical as part of the selection process. But he never heard back. Decades later when he was vice president, Nixon tried to find out why. When the  FBI opened his file, it said that he had been accepted and his place quickly revoked in August 1937. J. Edgar Hoover told the vice president it was due to budget cuts.

To see the entire application, visit Smithsonian Magazine here.