College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences

CAHS History Professor Recalls Nixon Resignation, Secret Tapes

Christopher Beam, CAHS adjunct History professor, had a front-row seat to American history when in 1977 he got an internship at the National Archives and listened to hour after hour of the infamous Nixon tapes.

A Vietnam War veteran who got his doctorate in history from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Beam listened to about 1,500 hours of the total 3,700 hours of secretly made recordings at the White House Oval Office. 

Beam now is an expert on the Nixon era and the Vietnam War and teaches those subjects at USM. 

As the 40th anniversary of President Richard M. Nixon’s resignation approaches on Saturday, Aug. 9, the professor also is getting to recall his experience through several media interviews. 

As the only U.S. president to resign from office, Nixon was forced to leave the White House because he tried to stop the investigation into the June 1972 break-in at Democratic headquarters at the Watergate complex in Washington D.C. and because of his imminent impeachment and conviction.    

During the federal investigation into the Watergate scandal, it was revealed that Nixon used a secret taping system in the Oval Office to record all his conversations with top officials and aides. The tapes became the focus of the investigation.

"Without the discovery of the tapes, and their incriminating contents, I believe Nixon would have survived in office,” Beam said. “He would have taken some political hits, and some of his staff would have been in trouble, but the Watergate investigation and the impeachment proceedings would have reached a dead end.

"The Nixon White House tapes are an extraordinary record of a presidency,” he continued. “To listen to them is to be a fly on the wall, hearing not only what was said but how it was said in a crucial period of modern America." 

You can listen to two of the crucial tape recordings here, through the Miller Center, UVA. 

The infamous “smoking gun” tape, June 23, 1972: 

The "cancer on the presidency" tape, March 21, 1973: 

Read Beam’s fascinating interview with Bill Nemitz of the Portland Press Herald: 

The adjunct professor will be interviewed at 6:10 a.m., Friday, Aug. 8, by Don Cookson, WZON-The Pulse AM 620. A live stream can be heard here: 

Beam will be a guest on MPBN’s “Maine Things Considered,” 5:30 p.m., Friday, Aug. 8, with an interview by Tom Porter. The live stream can be heard here:

In addition, Beam will be featured on “ ‘MPG Reports,” WMPG’s news show, 90.9 FM, in an interview with Lisa Bunker, program director, at 1 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 12. A live stream can be heard here:

For more information about the CAHS Political Science major, go to