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Pat Nixon
Original name: Thelma Catherine Ryan
Birth: Mar. 16, 1912
Ely
White Pine County
Nevada, USA
Death: Jun. 22, 1993
Park Ridge
Bergen County
New Jersey, USA

Presidential First lady. She was the wife of the 37th US President, Richard Milhous Nixon. She was born Thelma Catherine "Pat" Ryan in a small Nevada mining town. Her father was a sailor, gold miner, and truck farmer of Irish descent and her mother was a German immigrant. "Pat" was a nickname given to her by her father, referring to her birthdate and Irish ancestry. After her birth the family moved to California, and in 1914 settled on a small truck farm in Artesia (present-day Cerritos). As a young girl she worked on the family farm. When she was 12 years old, her mother died of cancer, and she assumed all the household duties for her father, who died in 1929 of silicosis. In 1929 she graduated from Excelsior High School in Norwalk, California and attended Fullerton Junior College in Fullerton, California, paying for her education by working odd jobs, including as a driver, a pharmacy manager, a telephone operator, a typist, a janitor at a local bank. In 1931 she enrolled at the University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, California, where she majored in merchandising. She held part-time jobs on campus, worked as a sales clerk in a department store, taught typing and shorthand at a high school, and supplemented her income by working as an extra in the film industry, appearing as part of a brief walk-on in the 1935 film "Becky Sharp," as well as the 1936 film "The Great Ziegfeld." In 1937 she graduated from USC with a Bachelor of Science degree in merchandising, together with a certificate to teach at the high school level, which USC deemed equivalent to a Master's degree. She then accepted a position as a high school teacher in Whittier, California. While in Whittier, she met a young lawyer fresh out of Duke University School of Law, Richard Milhous Nixon. The two became acquainted at a Little Theater group in Whittier when they were cast together in "The Dark Tower." They dated for two years before finally marrying at the Mission Inn in Riverside, California on June 21, 1940. During World War II, when he served in the US Navy, she worked as a government economist living in San Francisco, California. She campaigned at her husband's side in 1946 when he entered politics, running successfully for a seat in the United States House of Representatives as a Republican. That same year, she gave birth to a daughter and namesake, Patricia, known as Tricia and in 1948, she had her second and last child, Julie. From 1946 until 1952, she saw her husband move from the U.S. House of Representatives to the United States Senate, and then be nominated as Dwight D. Eisenhower's vice presidential candidate. During the Presidential campaign of 1952, her view toward politics changed when her husband was accused of accepting illegal campaign contributions. She encouraged him to fight the charges, and he did so by delivering the famed "Checkers" speech, so-called for the family's dog, a cocker spaniel given them by a political supporter. This was her first national television appearance, and she, her daughters, and the dog were featured prominently. She accompanied her husband abroad in his vice presidential years, visiting 53 nations, often bypassing luncheons and teas and instead visiting hospitals, orphanages, and even a leper colony in Panama. She was named Outstanding Homemaker of the Year (1953), Mother of the Year (1955), and the Nation's Ideal Housewife (1957). After her husband lost the Presidential race to Senator John F. Kennedy in 1960, they returned to California where he worked for a law firm. In 1962 they embarked on another campaign, this time for Governor of California, but lost the election to Edmund Gerald "Pat" Brown. In 1968 her husband ran for President on the Republican ticket and made a political comeback with his victory over Democratic Vice President Hubert Humphrey. One of her major initiatives as First Lady was the promotion of volunteerism, in which she encouraged Americans to address social problems at the local level through volunteering at hospitals, civic organizations, and rehabilitation centers. She became involved in the development of recreation areas and parkland, was a member of the President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped, and lent her support to organizations dedicated to improving the lives of handicapped children. For her first Thanksgiving in the White House, she organized a meal for 225 senior citizens who did not have families. The following year, she invited wounded servicemen to a second annual Thanksgiving meal in the White House. Though presidents since George Washington had been issuing Thanksgiving proclamations, she became the only First Lady to issue one. She focused on refurnishing the White House by adding more than 600 paintings and furnishings to the White House and its collections, the largest number of acquisitions by any administration. She created the Map Room and renovated the China room, and refurbished nine others. She worked with engineers to develop an exterior lighting system for the entire White House, literally making it glow a soft white. She ordered the flag flown, day and night, even when the president was not there. She ordered pamphlets describing the rooms of the house for tourists so they could understand everything, and had them translated into Spanish, French, Italian and Russian for foreigners. She had ramps installed for the handicapped and physically disabled. She instructed the police who served as tour guides to attend sessions at Winterthur (to learn how tours were guided "in a real museum"), and arranged for them to wear less menacing uniforms, with their firearms hidden underneath. The tour guides were to speak slowly to deaf groups, to help those who lip-read, and she ordered that the blind be able to touch the antiques. She opened the White House for evening tours so that the public could see the interior design work that had been implemented. Among these tours were those conducted in December, displaying the White House's Christmas decor. Additionally, she instituted a series of performances by artists at the White House in varied American traditions, from opera to bluegrass. She spoke out in favor of women running for political office and encouraged her husband to nominate a woman to the Supreme Court, saying "woman power is unbeatable; I've seen it all across this country". She was the first of the American First Ladies to publicly support the Equal Rights Amendment, though her views on abortion were mixed. In 1972 she became the first Republican First Lady to address a national convention. Her efforts in the 1972 reelection campaign, traveling across the country and speaking on behalf of her husband, were copied by future candidates' spouses. She held the record as the most-traveled First Lady before Hillary Rodham Clinton. On foreign trips, she refused to be serviced by an entourage, feeling that they were an unnecessary barrier and a burden for taxpayers. She became the first First Lady to enter a combat zone in South Vietnam. She also became the first First Lady to visit Africa in 1972, on a 10,000-mile, eight-day journey to Ghana, Liberia, and the Ivory Coast. Another notable journey was the Nixons' historic visit to the People's Republic of China in 1972. She accompanied her husband to the Nixon-Brezhnev summit meetings in the Soviet Union later in the year. Though security constraints left her unable to walk freely through the streets as she did in China, she was still able to visit with children and walk arm-in-arm with Soviet First Lady Viktoria Brezhneva. Later, she visited Brazil and Venezuela in 1974 with the unique diplomatic standing of personal representative of the president. The Nixons' last major trip was in June 1974, to Austria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Israel, and Jordan. In 1974, when the Watergate scandal investigation was leading up to her husband's possible impeachment, she dealt with it with dignity. She said simply, "I believe in my husband and am proud of his accomplishments". She encouraged him not to resign and instead fight all the impeachment charges that were leveled against him. However, he elected to resign the Presidency and on August 8, 1974, they departed. After leaving the White House, her public appearances became increasingly rare. She and her husband returned to California, moved to Manhattan, New York City, New York in 1981, and two years later moved to Saddle River, New Jersey. She suffered two strokes, one in 1976, which resulted in paralysis on her entire left side which she recovered with physical therapy, and another in 1983. A heavy smoker, she endured bouts of oral cancer, emphysema, and was ultimately diagnosed with lung cancer in 1992 and died the following year in Park Ridge, New Jersey at the age of 81. She was listed on the Gallup Organization's top-ten list of the most admired women fourteen times, from 1959 to 1962 and from 1968 to 1979. She was third in 1969, and remained at number two until 1972, when she was ranked number one as the most admired woman. She remained on the top-ten list until 1979, five years after her husband left office. She was portrayed by Joan Allen in the 1995 film "Nixon," Patty McCormack in the 2008 film "Frost/Nixon," and Nicole Sullivan in the 2009 spoof comedy film "Black Dynamite." (bio by: William Bjornstad) 
 
Family links: 
 Parents:
  William Martin Ryan (1866 - 1930)
  Katherine Halberstadt Ryan (1879 - 1926)
 
 Spouse:
  Richard Milhous Nixon (1913 - 1994)*
 
 Sibling:
  Matthew G. Bender (1903 - 1973)**
  Pat Nixon (1912 - 1993)
 
*Calculated relationship
**Half-sibling

Cause of death: Cancer
 
Burial:
Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace
Yorba Linda
Orange County
California, USA
Plot: First Lady's Garden
 
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Record added: Jan 01, 2001
Find A Grave Memorial# 1281
Pat Nixon
Added by: Ron Moody
 
Pat Nixon
Added by: Jim Tipton
 
Pat Nixon
Added by: Jim Tipton
 
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-Anonymous
 Added: Nov. 30, 2014

- gecko
 Added: Nov. 14, 2014

- Lisa Lackey-Reeves
 Added: Nov. 5, 2014
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