Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Andrew Morris




federal disaster relief policy, resources, hurricane, victims


This thesis examines the evolution of federal disaster relief policy under President Richard Nixon from 1969-1974. The findings show that even under a conservative president in Nixon, the federal disaster relief program expanded both in federal resources and funding consistently during this period. Both Hurricane Camille (1969), and Hurricane Agnes (1972), served as significant catalysts for this, but also, the liberal political context of this period coming just after the implementation of the Great Society program by Lyndon Johnson, and Nixon’s own ambitions to be seen as a proactive leader despite the ideological contentions it spawned throughout his presidency, played into the expansion of the federal disaster relief program as well. To best analyze how and why federal disaster relief policy evolved as it did between 1969 and 1974, the following examination is organized chronologically; sections have been devoted to the political background and context of federal disaster relief policy before Hurricane Camille; the disaster relief effort in the aftermath of Hurricane Camille, and the discussions to amend the current federal disaster relief legislation from the Disaster Relief Act of 1969 to the Disaster Assistance Act of 1970; the political effects of increasing partisanship between the Democratic Congress and the Republicans who supported Nixon’s administration between 1970-1971, the years leading to Hurricane Agnes, as well as the federal disaster relief effort in its aftermath under the Agnes Recovery Act of 1972; and finally, federal disaster relief hearings in the years following Agnes leading to the Disaster Relief Act of 1974. Throughout each of these sections there is an emphasized analysis on how partisanship and polarity among the federal government immediately following Hurricane Camille and Hurricane Agnes differs from this in the interim of these major catastrophes. This study relies primarily on the testimony surrounding disaster relief legislation between 1969-1974 to discern how federal disaster relief policy provisions have changed, and how the overall scope of federal disaster relief has evolved. As was mentioned, it especially focuses on the two most catastrophic natural disasters in these years, Hurricane Camille and Hurricane Agnes, as the two events that were especially influential in the development of federal disaster relief policy during this time. Furthermore, this thesis considers the social and political context of this period, drawing on media accounts of disasters and disaster victims to highlight the heightened sense of entitlement for federal relief during that emerged during this phase of liberalism. Lastly, this paper also examines Nixon’s broader domestic policy and seeks to connect how his influence in the evolution of federal disaster relief policy correlates with his initiatives in his domestic policy agenda. Upon investigating this, it is clear that the conservative strains in Nixon’s through were trumped by his personal ambitions and desires. Ultimately, this influenced his initiative in both federal disaster relief policy and domestic policy in general during his presidency.