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"Scared to death": CBS cameraman covered Nixon's resignation speech

WASHINGTON -- In the moments before President Richard Nixon announced his resignation, he ordered almost everyone out of the Oval Office.

CBS News' George Christian in 2014
CBS News
"Only the CBS crew now is going to be in this room during this," Nixon said. "Only the crew."

The crew included George Christian, then just 27 years old.

"There were only two people allowed from the crew in the room, and one of them was the cameraman and the other was myself, to make sure things worked," Christian told CBS News correspondent Chip Reid.

His job was crucial but he worried that Nixon would tell him to leave, too.

"I'm standing there with an Afro, bell bottoms and not looking like I'm doing very much, like I just roamed into the room," Christian said.

CBS News' George Christian in 1974, setting up for President Nixon's resignation speech.
CBS News

So he hid behind the camera. It was Christian's first time in the Oval Office.

"I was more than nervous," Christian said. "I was scared to death!"

Christian said he "could sense the embarrassment" when Nixon gave his resignation speech.

The emotion came later -- when he said goodbye to the White House staff.

Christian was in the room when Nixon said his mother was a "saint."

"He talked about his mother and it was, it was sad and I actually felt compassion for him at that moment," Christian said.

Christian, who has covered a lot of big news events in 40 years, says the Nixon resignation ranks at the top.

"I've been fortunate enough to be in places where I would have paid CBS to be there. This was one of them, and I would have paid a lot. And I think a lot of people would have," Christian said. "I had a front row seat. I wasn't sitting though - I was standing, hiding behind a camera."

And he was nearly alone with the president as history was being made.

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.