First Lady: 1969 to 1974
Wife of President Richard M. Nixon
Born: March 16, 1912 Died: June 22, 1993
Thelma ("Pat") Catherine Ryan was born in Ely, Nevada, but was raised on a farm outside of Los Angeles, California. Her mother died when she was young, so she took over the housekeeping responsibilities for her father. Her father gave her the nickname of "Pat," preferring this to Thelma. At the age of seventeen, Pat lost her father. Being on her own she worked many different jobs, and put herself through the University of Southern California, graduating in 1937 with a degree in merchandising. After graduation she accepted a teaching job at Whittier High School, near Los Angeles. At Whittier High School through a theatrical group, she met Richard Nixon, a young lawyer. Pat and Richard became engaged and were married on June 21, 1940, in Riverside, California.
Shortly after they married, World War II began, and Richard spent almost all the war years away, serving in the Navy in the pacific. During this time Pat continued teaching at Whittier. In 1946, the first of their two daughters, Patricia, was born, and Richard entered politics, winning election to the House of Representatives. In 1948, their second daughter Julie, was born. Throughout Richard's long political career, Pat was always very supportive, leaving her career behind to help her husband with his. She would be in tears if Richard lost an election.
Richard's election to the Presidency was a great achievement, and Pat very much enjoyed being the First Lady. Upon entering the White House, Pat redecorated it in European style, replacing the classical restorations of Jackie Kennedy. Pat would also give extravagant parties and receptions, her most famous being the wedding reception for her daughter Tricia, in the White House rose garden. Pat was always known to be friendly, popular, graceful, and polished in manners. Disaster came in 1973 during President's Nixon's involvement in the Watergate scandal. Pat's close relationship with her husband was quite strained during this time, as Richard refused to talk about the incident with anyone, including Pat.
In August 1974, President Nixon resigned, rather then face impeachment. They retired to their homes, traveling between San Clemente and New Jersey. Pat died at their home in Park Ridge, New Jersey, on June 22, 1993.
John T. Marck. All Rights Reserved. This article and their accompanying
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the author. From The First Ladies of the United States by John T. Marck.