Pat Nixon


Pat Nixon

Original Name Thelma Catherine Ryan
Ely, White Pine County, Nevada, USA
Death 22 Jun 1993 (aged 81)
Park Ridge, Bergen County, New Jersey, USA
Burial Yorba Linda, Orange County, California, USA
Plot First Lady's Garden
Memorial ID 1281 View Source
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First Lady of the United States. She gained international notoriety as the wife of Richard Nixon, the 37th President of the United States, who was the first to resign from office. Born Thelma Catherine Ryan, she was a California school teacher when she met Nixon. Her mother, Katherine Halberstadt, was born in Frankfort, Germany and her father, Will Ryan, was a first-generation American of Irish parents. She had a half brother by her mother's first marriage to Matthew Bender, Jr, who, according to his obituary, drowned in a flash flood leaving his wife a pregnant widow with a young son. She had a older sister and two brothers. She took the name “Patricia” after her father's death as he called her, “St Patrick's babe in the morn,” as she was born the day before St. Patrick's Day. She excelled in high school especially in politics, debating and drama. Her family's farm grew various vegetables, which were sold off a truck going place to place. At an early age, she began the hard work of a farmer's daughter. When her parents became ill and eventually dying between 1926 and 1930, she, as a teenager, became their caregiver, cooked for her older brothers in addition to the farm hands and took work as the high school janitor to earn money. After making an attempt to become an actress, she turned to a more practical career. In the summer of 1933, she attended a radiology course at Columbia University in New York City and later worked at a Catholic hospital. From 1934 to 1937 with a scholarship and working part-time at various jobs, she attended the University of Southern California studying education, graduating with a Bachelor's Degree in Science of Merchandising and receiving a teacher's certificate for high school level, which was given as an equivalence of a Master's degree. After her college graduation in 1937, she accepted a position as a teacher in the business education department at Whittier Union High School, continuing this position until 1941. On June 21, 1940, she married Richard Milhous Nixon, a small town lawyer. They met acting in a local theater production. When World War II started, the couple relocated to Washington D. C. where her husband had a position on President Roosevelt's administration and she worked with the Red Cross. After her husband enlisted in the Navy and was deployed to the Pacific, she moved to San Francisco, California working for the Federal Office of Price Administration as an economist. After the war, her husband sought a political career as a Republican candidate. In the past, she had expressed herself in politics voting for Democratic and Independent candidates, but changed to being a Republican at this point. In 1946, her husband won a seat as a United States Congressman from his California district, and four years later elected to the Senate for two years. In 1952, he was elected Vice President of the United States on General Dwight D. Eisenhower's ticket, and they were re-elected in 1956. By being active in the public eye, she helped to create the role of “Second Lady” from being merely a Vice President's wife. Although she often had to attend luncheons or teas, she would schedule visits to hospitals, schools, orphanages, senior citizen homes and even a leper colony soliciting donations of time as well as money. Shaping this administration, she graciously received many donations of valuable furniture and art pieces for the White House. President Eisenhower was quick to recognize her abilities and would send the Nixons as a couple to be ambassadors to foreign countries. Her husband lost his bid in 1960 for President of the United States and in 1962 as Governor of California. In the 1960 Presidential campaign with the slogan “Pat for First Lady”, a race was created by the press between her and Jackie Kennedy comparing the two women's different life styles and backgrounds. Against her wishes, the couple moved to New York City soon after the 1962 political loss, and her husband practiced law there and wrote his first book. In 1968 her husband decided to be a candidate for United States President and she was not eager for this opportunity, but supported her husband as he ran a successful campaign against Democratic Hubert Humphrey in the one of the closest elections in the history of the United States. For this inaugural ball, the First Lady worn a soft-yellow silk gown with a cropped jacket embroidered with gold and silver Austrian crystals. This gown became a part of the “First Lady” display at the Smithsonian Museum. Seven days after the election on December 22, 1968 in New York City, the Nixon and Eisenhower families were forever united with the marriage of their daughter Julie to Dwight David Eisenhower III, the only grandson of former-President Eisenhower. Their oldest daughter, Tricia, was married in the White House Rose Garden in 1971 to attorney, Edward Cox. Running for re-election in 1972, her husband ran against Democrat George McGovern winning with a landslide of sixty percent of the popular vote. Very soon after the election, an investigation was started as the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Office Complex in Washington D.C. was burglarized by five men in July of 1972. Prior to the election, these offices had been bugged to tape record conversations. The crime was traced to officials of the Committee to Re-elect the President. At first, her husband denied any personal involvement in the crime, yet when the Supreme Court forced him to surrender his Oval Office tape recordings to the Senate hearings, his involvement was clear. Faced with impeachment, he resigned from the presidency on August 9, 1974. The couple quietly retired to their home, La Casa Pacifica in San Clemente, California. Although there were depressing legal troubles that followed, she met these days with dignity and a devoted love for her husband. This stress took a toll on her health. In 1976, she had a stroke that temporarily gave her aphasia and paralysis on the left side. Another stroke followed in the early 1980s causing her to be reluctant to be seen in public for the last couple decades of her life. She died of lung cancer on June 22, 1993, and ten months later her husband died of a massive stroke. History may remember her husband as the first United States President to resign from this office, yet it will remember this First Lady as a beautiful, dignified woman who devoted her time to her nation, charitable work and her family.

Bio by: Linda Davis

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Patricia Ryan Nixon
1912 - 1993
Even When People Can't Speak
Your Language, They Can Tell
If You Have Love In Your Heart


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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Added: 31 Dec 2000
  • Find a Grave Memorial 1281
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Pat Nixon (16 Mar 1912–22 Jun 1993), Find a Grave Memorial ID 1281, citing Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace, Yorba Linda, Orange County, California, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .