Richard Milhous Nixon (1913–94) is the only native-born Californian ever elected to the presidency. Following naval service in World War II, he was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1946, then to the US Senate in 1950. He served as vice president during the Eisenhower administration (1953–61) but failed, by a narrow margin, to be elected president as the Republican candidate in 1960. Returning to his home state, Nixon ran for the California governorship in 1962 but was defeated. The next year he moved his home and political base to New York, from which he launched his successful campaign for the presidency in 1968. As the nation's 37th president, Nixon withdrew US forces from Vietnam while intensifying the US bombing of Indochina, established diplomatic relations with China, and followed a policy of détente with the Soviet Union. In 1972, he scored a resounding reelection victory, but within a year his administration was beset by the Watergate scandal. On 9 August 1974, after the House Judiciary Committee had voted articles of impeachment, Nixon became the first president ever to resign the office.
The nation's 31st president, Herbert Hoover (b.Iowa, 1874–1964), moved to California as a young man. There he studied engineering at Stanford University and graduated with its first class (1895) before beginning the public career that culminated in his election to the presidency on the Republican ticket in 1928. Former film actor Ronald Reagan (b.Illinois, 1911) served two terms as state governor (1967–75) before becoming president in 1981. He was elected to a second presidential term in 1984.
In 1953, Earl Warren (1891–1974) became the first Californian to serve as US chief justice (1953–69). Warren, a native of Los Angeles, was elected three times to the California governorship and served in that office (1943–53) longer than any other person. Following his appointment to the US Supreme Court by President Eisenhower, Warren was instrumental in securing the unanimous decision in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) that racial segregation was unconstitutional under the 14th Amendment. Other cases decided by the Warren court dealt with defendants' rights, legislative reapportionment, and First Amendment freedoms.
Before the appointment of Earl Warren, California had been represented on the Supreme Court continuously from 1863 to 1926. Stephen J. Field (b.Connecticut, 1816–99) came to California during the gold rush, practiced law, and served as chief justice of the state supreme court from 1859 to 1863. Following his appointment to the highest court by President Lincoln, Field served what was at that time the longest term in the court's history (1863–97). Joseph McKenna (b.Pennsylvania, 1843–1926) was appointed to the Supreme Court to replace Field upon his retirement. McKenna, who moved with his family to California in 1855, became US attorney general in 1897 and was then elevated by President McKinley to associate justice (1898–1925).
Californians have also held important positions in the executive branch of the federal government. Longtime California resident Victor H. Metcalf (b.New York, 1853–1936) served as Theodore Roosevelt's secretary of commerce and labor. Franklin K. Lane (b.Canada, 1864–1921) was Woodrow Wilson's secretary of the interior, and Ray Lyman Wilbur (b.Iowa, 1875–1949) occupied the same post in the Hoover administration. Californians were especially numerous in the cabinet of Richard Nixon. Los Angeles executive James D. Hodgson (b.Minnesota, 1915) was secretary of labor; former state lieutenant governor Robert H. Finch (b.Arizona, 1925–95) and San Francisco native Caspar W. Weinberger (b.1917) both served terms as secretary of health, education, and welfare; and Claude S. Brinegar (b.1926) was secretary of transportation. Weinberger and Brinegar stayed on at their respective posts in the Ford administration; Weinberger later served as secretary of defense under Ronald Reagan. An important figure in several national administrations, San Francisco-born John A. McCone (1902–91) was chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (1958–60) and director of the Central Intelligence Agency (1961–65).
John Charles Frémont (b.Georgia, 1813–90) led several expeditions to the West, briefly served as civil governor of California before statehood, became one of California's first two US senators (serving only until 1851), and ran unsuccessfully as the Republican Party's first presidential candidate in 1856. Other prominent US senators from the state have included Hiram Johnson (1866–1945), who also served as governor from 1911 to 1917; William F. Knowland (1908–74); and, more recently, former college president and semanticist Samuel Ichiye Hayakawa (b.Canada, 1906–92) and former state controller Alan Cranston (1914–2001). Governors of the state since World War II include Reagan, Edmund G. "Pat" Brown (1905–96), 4th-generation Californian Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown, Jr. (b.1938), and George Deukmejian (b.New York, 1928). Other prominent state officeholders are Rose Elizabeth Bird (b.Arizona, 1936–99), the first woman to be appointed chief justice of the state supreme court, and Wilson Riles (b.Louisiana, 1917–99), superintendent of public instruction, the first black Californian elected to a state constitutional office. Prominent among mayors are Thomas Bradley (b.Texas, 1917–98) of Los Angeles, Pete Wilson (b.Illinois, 1933) of San Diego, Dianne Feinstein (b.1933) of San Francisco, and Janet Gray Hayes (b.Indiana, 1926) of San Jose.
Californians have won Nobel Prizes in five separate categories. Linus Pauling (b.Oregon, 1901–94), professor at the California Institute of Technology (1927–64) and at Stanford (1969–74), won the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1954 and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962. Other winners of the Nobel Prize in chemistry are University of California (Berkeley) professors William Francis Giauque (b.Canada, 1895–1982), in 1949; Edwin M. McMillan (1907–91) and Glenn T. Seaborg (b.Michigan, 1912–99), who shared the prize in 1951; and Stanford Professor Henry Taube (b.Canada, 1915), in 1983. Members of the Berkeley faculty who have won the Nobel Prize for physics include Ernest Orlando Lawrence (b.South Dakota, 1901–58), in 1939; Emilio Segré(b.Italy, 1905–89) and Owen Chamberlain (b.1920), who shared the prize in 1959; and Luis W. Alvarez (1911–88), in 1968. Stanford professor William Shockley (b.England, 1910–89) shared the physics prize with two others in 1956; William A. Fowler (b.Pennsylvania, 1911–95), professor at the California Institute of Technology, won the prize in 1983. The only native-born Californian to win the Nobel Prize for literature was novelist John Steinbeck (1902–68), in 1962. Gerald Debreu (b.France, 1921), professor at the University of California at Berkeley, won the 1983 prize for economics.
Other prominent California scientists are world-famed horticulturist Luther Burbank (b.Massachusetts, 1849–1926) and nuclear physicist Edward Teller (b.Hungary, 1908–2003). Naturalist John Muir (b.Scotland, 1838–1914) fought for the establishment of Yosemite National Park. Influential California educators include college presidents David Starr Jordan (b.New York, 1851–1931) of Stanford, and Robert Gordon Sproul (1891–1975) and Clark Kerr (b.Pennsylvania, 1911) of the University of California.
Major figures in the California labor movement were anti-Chinese agitator Denis Kearney (b.Ireland, 1847–1907); radical organizer Thomas Mooney (b.Illinois, 1882–1942); and Harry Bridges (b.Australia, 1901–90), leader of the San Francisco general strike of 1934. The best-known contemporary labor leader in California is Cesar Chavez (b.Arizona, 1927–93).
The variety of California's economic opportunities is reflected in the diversity of its business leadership. Prominent in the development of California railroads were the men known as the Big Four: Charles Crocker (b.New York, 1822–88), Mark Hopkins (b.New York, 1813–78), Collis P. Huntington (b.Connecticut, 1821–1900), and Leland Stanford (b.New York, 1824–93). California's long-standing dominance in the aerospace industry is a product of the efforts of such native Californians as John Northrop (1895–1981) and self-taught aviator Allen Lockheed (1889–1969), along with Glenn L. Martin (b.Iowa, 1886–1955); the San Diego firm headed by Claude T. Ryan (b.Kansas, 1898–1982), built the monoplane, Spirit of St. Louis, flown by Charles Lindbergh across the Atlantic in 1927. Among the state's banking and financial leaders was San Jose native Amadeo Peter Giannini (1870–1949), founder of the Bank of America. Important figures in the development of California agriculture include Edwin T. Earl (1856–1919), developer of the first ventilator-refrigerator railroad car, and Mark J. Fontana (b.Italy, 1849–1922), whose California Packing Corp., under the brand name of Del Monte, became the largest seller of canned fruit in the US. Leaders of the state's world-famous wine and grape-growing industry include immigrants Ágostan Haraszthy de Mokcsa (b.Hungary, 1812?–69), Charles Krug (b.Prussia, 1830–94), and Paul Masson (b.France, 1859–1940), as well as two Modesto natives, Ernest (b.1910) and Julio (1911–93) Gallo. It was at the mill of John Sutter (b.Baden, 1803–80) that gold was discovered in 1848.
Leading figures among the state's newspaper editors and publishers were William Randolph Hearst (1863–1951), whose publishing empire began with the San Francisco Examiner, and Harrison Gray Otis (b.Ohio, 1837–1917), longtime owner and publisher of the Los Angeles Times. Pioneers of the state's electronics industry include David Packard (b.Colorado, 1912–96) and William R. Hewlett (b.Michigan, 1913); Stephen Wozniak (b.1950) and Steven Jobs (b.1955) were cofounders of Apple Computer. Other prominent business leaders include clothier Levi Strauss (b.Germany, 1830–1902), paper producer Anthony Zellerbach (b.Germany, 1832–1911), cosmetics manufacturer Max Factor (b.Poland, 1877–1938), and construction and manufacturing magnate Henry J. Kaiser (b.New York, 1882–1967).
California has been home to a great many creative artists. Native California writers include John Steinbeck, adventure writer Jack London (1876–1916), novelist and dramatist William Saroyan (1908–81), and novelist-essayist Joan Didion (b.1934). One California-born writer whose life and works were divorced from his place of birth was Robert Frost (1874–1963), a native of San Francisco. Many other writers who were residents but not natives of the state have made important contributions to literature. Included in this category are Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens, b.Missouri, 1835–1910); local colorist Bret Harte (b.New York, 1836–1902); author-journalist Ambrose Bierce (b.Ohio, 1842–1914); novelists Frank Norris (b.Illinois, 1870–1902), Mary Austin (b.Illinois, 1868–1934), and Aldous Huxley (b.England, 1894–1963); novelist-playwright Christopher Isherwood (b.England, 1904–86); and poets Robinson Jeffers (b.Pennsylvania, 1887–1962) and Lawrence Ferlinghetti (b.New York, 1920). California has been the home of several masters of detective fiction, including Raymond Chandler (b.Illinois, 1888–1959), Dashiell Hammett (b.Connecticut, 1894–1961), Erle Stanley Gardner (b.Massachusetts, 1889–1970), creator of Perry Mason, and Ross Macdonald (1915–83). Producer-playwright David Belasco (1853–1931) was born in San Francisco.
Important composers who have lived and worked in California include natives Henry Cowell (1897–1965) and John Cage (1912–92), and immigrants Arnold Schoenberg (b.Austria, 1874–1951), Ernest Bloch (b.Switzerland, 1880–1959), and Igor Stravinsky (b.Russia, 1882–1971). Immigrant painters include landscape artists Albert Bierstadt (b.Germany, 1830–1902) and William Keith (b.Scotland, 1839–1911), as well as abstract painter Hans Hofmann (b.Germany, 1880–1966). Contemporary artists working in California include Berkeley-born Elmer Bischoff (b.1916–91), Wayne Thiebaud (b.Arizona, 1920), and Richard Diebenkorn (b.Oregon, 1922–93). San Francisco native Ansel Adams (1902–84) is the best known of a long line of California photographers that includes Edward Curtis (b.Wisconsin, 1868–1952), famed for his portraits of American Indians, and Dorothea Lange (b.New Jersey, 1895–1965), chronicler of the 1930s migration to California.
Many of the world's finest performing artists have also been Californians: Violinist Ruggiero Ricci (b.1918) was born in San Francisco, while fellow virtuosos Yehudi Menuhin (b.New York, 1916–99) and Isaac Stern (b.Russia, 1920–2001) were both reared in the state. Another master violinist, Jascha Heifetz (b.Russia, 1901–84), made his home in Beverly Hills. California jazz musicians include Dave Brubeck (b.1920) and Los Angeles-reared Stan Kenton (b.Kansas, 1912–79).
Among the many popular musicians who live and record in the state are California natives David Crosby (b.1941), Randy Newman (b.1943), and Beach Boys Brian (b.1942) and Carl (1946–98) Wilson.
The list of talented and beloved film actors associated with Hollywood is enormous. Native Californians on the screen include child actress Shirley Temple (Mrs. Charles A. Black, b.1928) and such greats as Gregory Peck (b.1916) and Marilyn Monroe (Norma Jean Baker, 1926–62). Other longtime residents of the state include Douglas Fairbanks (b.Colorado, 1883–1939), Mary Pickford (Gladys Marie Smith, b.Canada, 1894–1979), Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby (b.Washington, 1904–77), Cary Grant (Archibald Leach, b.England, 1904–86), John Wayne (Marion Michael Morrison, b.Iowa, 1907–79), Bette Davis (b.Massachusetts, 1908–89), and Clark Gable (b.Ohio, 1901–60). Other actors born in California include Clint Eastwood (b.1930), Robert Duvall (b.1931), Robert Redford (b.1937), Kevin Costner (b.1955), and Dustin Lee Hoffman (b.1937).
Hollywood has also been the center for such pioneer film producers and directors as D. W. Griffith (David Lewelyn Wark Griffith, b.Kentucky, 1875–1948), Cecil B. DeMille (b.Massachusetts, 1881–1959), Samuel Goldwyn (b.Poland, 1882–1974), Frank Capra (b.Italy, 1897–1991), and master animator Walt Disney (b.Illinois, 1901–66).
California-born athletes have excelled in every professional sport. A representative sampling includes Baseball Hall of Famers Joe Cronin (1906–1984), Vernon "Lefty" Gomez (1908–89), and Joe DiMaggio (1914–99), along with tennis greats John Donald "Don" Budge (1915–2000), Richard A. "Pancho" Gonzales (1928–95), Maureen "Little Mo" Connelly (1934–69), and Billie Jean (Moffitt) King (b.1943); Gene Littler (b.1930) in golf, Frank Gifford (b.1930) and Orenthal James "O. J." Simpson (b.1947) in football, Mark Spitz (b.1950) in swimming, and Bill Walton (b.1952) in basketball. Robert B. "Bob" Mathias (b.1930) won the gold medal in the decathlon at the 1948 and 1952 Olympic Games.