Less than a year before Richard M. Nixon’s resignation as president of the United States, Spiro Agnew becomes the first U.S. vice president to resign in disgrace. The same day, he pleaded no contest to a charge of federal income tax evasion in exchange for the dropping of charges of political corruption. He was subsequently fined $10,000, sentenced to three years probation, and disbarred by the Maryland court of appeals.
Agnew, a Republican, was elected chief executive of Baltimore County in 1961. In 1967, he became governor of Maryland, an office he held until his nomination as the Republican vice presidential candidate in 1968. During Nixon’s successful campaign, Agnew ran on a tough law-and-order platform, and as vice president he frequently attacked opponents of the Vietnam War and liberals as being disloyal and un-American. Reelected with Nixon in 1972, Agnew resigned on October 10, 1973, after the U.S. Justice Department uncovered widespread evidence of his political corruption, including allegations that his practice of accepting bribes had continued into his tenure as U.S. vice president. He died at the age of 77 on September 17, 1996.
Under the process decreed by the 25th Amendment to the Constitution, President Nixon was instructed to the fill vacant office of vice president by nominating a candidate who then had to be approved by both houses of Congress. Nixon’s appointment of Representative Gerald Ford of Michigan was approved by Congress and, on December 6, Ford was sworn in. He became the 38th president of the United States on August 9, 1974, after the escalating Watergate affair caused Nixon to resign.