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What the Others Have Done

February 15, 1987

WHEN RICHARD NIXON resigned from the White House, he was sick (phlebitis), broke (legal bills and back taxes), despondent and reviled. To generate cash, he was forced to sell his two homes in Key Biscayne, Fla., at a bargain. Hoping to make more, he tried to persuade the television networks to buy his recollections. They weren't interested. In San Clemente, Nixon stewed in lonely exile.

But his finances began to turn, and then his fortunes. He received an advance of more than $2 million for his memoirs. Rushing in where the networks feared to tread, British talk show host David Frost paid Nixon $600,000 and a share of the profits for a series of televised interviews.

In 1979, his health and his finances on the mend, Nixon sold his house in San Clemente, reportedly for more than $2 million, and moved to New York. A couple of years later, he sold his Manhattan town house and moved to Saddle River, N. J. He took up a career as an author, churned out four big-picture meditations on foreign affairs and is currently working on a book called "1999."

Along the way, Nixon has steered clear of entanglements. He hasn't affiliated with any charities nor undertaken any business activities, says his administrative assistant, John H. Taylor. He has ignored requests to sit on corporate boards and he does not accept honorariums for his infrequent public speeches. From his real estate and book sales, he's become quite wealthy anyway.

Since leaving the White House, Jimmy Carter has spent much of his time writing. He has penned his memoirs and two other books, and with his wife, Rosalynn, has a new book coming out this year. Carter has also devoted time to organizing his presidential library complex, which opened last October in Atlanta. "Getting the library done, I suspect, would be the biggest thing for him since leaving office," says his former press secretary, Jody Powell. "He probably has fewer rich friends than any modern President. He just didn't have the sort of contacts that made fund raising easy."

Now that the library is up, Carter intends to work on the nonprofit groups established under its aegis. These include a center affiliated with Emory University that holds seminars on public policy issues, a small human-rights foundation and an international environmental group.

Like Nixon, Carter has steered clear of the business world, although he does accept honorariums for the dozen or so speeches he delivers each year. He has been offered positions on boards of directors, and he's turned down all commercial offers, says his spokeswoman, Melissa Montgomery.

Carter has also become affiliated with several charitable and nonprofit organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, a Georgia-based charity that constructs homes for the poor. Carter sits on the group's board of directors, and for the past three summers he has participated in one of the organization's "work camps"--hammering and sawing with other volunteers in New York and Chicago.

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