American President A Reference Resource ↑ Richard Milhous Nixon Front PageMelvin R. Laird (1969–1973): Secretary of DefenseMelvin Laird was born on September 1, 1922, in Omaha, Nebraska. He graduated with a B.A. from Carleton College, Minnesota (1942) and enlisted in the U.S. Navy. He succeeded his father in the Wisconsin State Senate (1946-1952) and was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives (1952-1969), eventually becoming chairman of the House Republican Conference. Laird served Nixon as secretary of defense (1969-1973) and as counselor to the president on domestic affairs (1973-1974). He resigned during the Watergate crisis and later worked as senior counselor for national and international affairs for Reader's Digest.