Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thelma Catherine "Pat" Ryan Nixon; 1969-1974

Born: 1912
Died: 1993

Thelma Ryan was born the night before St. Patrick's Day. Right then her Irish father, who worked in a Nevada silver mine, decided he'd call her "Pat." Childhood ended early for Pat. Her mother died and her father developed lung disease, and Pat assumed responsibility for herself and two brothers. She attended school and held down paying jobs in her free hours, at first doing chores on the family's California farm and later working as a sales clerk, teacher's aide, movie extra, janitor, and bank clerk. After college, Pat became a teacher in Whittier, where she met Richard Nixon, a young lawyer whose industry rivaled her won. A man with lofty ambitions, "Dick" was not one to take no for an answer. He wooed Pat till he won her. They wed in 1940 and had two daughters.

Pat did not share her husband's love for politics, but she believed in being a supportive wife and worked dutifully on all his campaigns. As First Lady, Pat accompanied Dick to the Soviet Union and China, earning the respect of reporters as an intelligent and candid spokeswoman for the President. She also made solo visits to Africa and South America. Pat liked to open the White House. She made it wheelchair accessible and launched garden tours and evening Christmastime tours, and she continued with the restoration Jackie Kennedy began, carefully adding hundreds of important pieces to the collection. But Watergate took a heavy toll on Pat, who stoically stood by her husband throughout his ordeal.

Thirty-Seventh President
Richard M. Nixon

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