There are 91 public schools named after John F. Kennedy, 73 named after Thomas Jefferson and 13 named after Barack Obama. (In total, the U.S. had 99,354 public schools, according to the most recent count.)
But when it comes to former President Richard Nixon, who resigned amid scandal in 1974, just two public schools across the country bear his name, according to the Department of Education.
Both Richard M. Nixon Elementary School in Hiawatha, Iowa and Nixon Elementary School in Landing, N.J. were named while Nixon was still in office, and they’ve both kept their names in the more than four decades since, despite occasional pushes for change.
“There was a lot of talk about renaming the school after Nixon resigned, but then it faded,” said Carol Cherry, who has taught at Landing’s Nixon Elementary for decades. “Since then efforts come up once in a while to change the name, but nothing has gained momentum.”
The school’s loyalty was rewarded on June 14, 1989, when Nixon paid a visit to Landing and was serenaded by students singing Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land.”
“At the time, we thought we were the only school named after him, so the president of the parent teacher association wrote several letters inviting him,” Cherry said. “He came on Flag Day and spoke to the kids about Russian culture, before spending time meeting each of the teachers.”
The school had opened 20 years earlier in 1969, and its name was chosen by students in the district. “In those days, they were hearing Nixon and Kennedy everywhere,” Cherry said.
A year later, a second school named for Nixon opened in Iowa, just outside of Cedar Rapids. Nixon never visited that school before his death in 1994, but on the school’s 25th anniversary, Nixon’s brother, Edward, accepted an invitation. Edward Nixon focused on the former President’s foreign policy achievements during his visit, according to news reports at the time.
Staff at the Iowa Nixon Elementary School were unavailable to comment on Nixon’s legacy, though the school’s website briefly describes its connection to the former President.
In Landing, Nixon isn’t incorporated into any of the school’s songs, traditions or mascots, said Cherry. All that remains of Nixon beyond the school’s name is his portrait at the building’s entrance.
“Nowadays, students don’t know what happened with Nixon,” Cherry said. “I don’t think the name really has had any affect—we’ve kept a positive attitude.”