Death brings Nixon final forgiveness

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The Independent Online
FORGIVING in death as it rarely was during his life, the United States yesterday mourned Richard Milhous Nixon, one of the most controversial, divisive, and gifted leaders in its history, the 37th President and the only one to resign his office. For the man forever associated with Watergate, the most wrenching political scandal of the century, the closing act was peaceful, writes Rupert Cornwell in Washington.

Mr Nixon died at 9.08pm on Friday, in the New York hospital where he was taken on Monday after suffering a stroke. He was 81.

Yesterday, as flags flew at half- mast across America, most of his countrymen put bitterness aside. President Clinton made the formal announcement, paying generous tribute to a statesman, who 'gave of himself with intelligence and devotion to duty'. His country 'owes him a debt of gratitude for that service'.

Gerald Ford, who succeeded Mr Nixon in 1974, called him perhaps 'the finest foreign policy president of this century'. Even the Washington Post, which led the Watergate expose, managed a civil farewell. Despite 'the dark side and the resentfulness . . . his 'enemies list' approach to politics,' he had 'a large and imaginative concept of the presidency'.

At his own request, there will be no formal ceremony in Washington. His body will be flown to California, to lie in state at the Nixon Presidential Library at his birthplace of Yorba Linda, near Los Angeles. The funeral will be held on Wednesday and Mr Nixon will be buried next to his wife Pat, who died last June. Four former US Presidents - Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and George Bush - will attend with President Clinton.

(Photograph omitted)

Special reports, pages 2 and 3