|Yorba Linda, CA||August 11, 2008|
Though not a politician in the literal sense, Patricia Nixon used her platform as a political spouse to strengthen foreign relations and to advocate for volunteerism. “I have more opportunity to do the things in which I’m interested,” she told ABC News Correspondent Virginia Sherwood in 1971 of her experience as first lady. “[T]o help people, to visit with them, to travel, to report to my husband, and to make recommendations.” Her public profile shrank after the abrupt conclusion of her spouse’s presidency in 1974, and Mrs. Nixon died 19 years later at age 81. She was interred at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library, which at the time was a private organization operated by the Nixon Birthplace Foundation.
The Nixons are laid to rest in a small garden near the former president’s birthplace. Mrs. Nixon is quoted as having said, “I have sacrificed everything in my life that I consider precious in order to advance the political career of my husband.” They were married for one day over 53 years.
Mrs. Nixon’s gold-lettered epitaph reads, “Even when people can’t speak your language, they can tell if you have love in your heart.” This was her response to an inquiry about the viability of her connecting with Peruvians during her post-earthquake relief trip to their country in 1970.
Born: March 16, 1912 in Ely, Nevada
Spouse: Richard Nixon (m. 1940-1993)
Second Lady Tenure: 1953-1961
First Lady Tenure: 1969-1974
Died: June 22, 1993 in Park Ridge, New Jersey
Cause of Death: Lung Cancer
Interment: Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, Yorba Linda, California
“You can't really compare first ladies. I think that the times dictate what a first lady would be like, and also the job -- how she interprets the job. But I think my mother's interpreting it the way that's good for her. She's not trying to change herself -- in other words, she's always preferred to stay more in the background, and yet her presence is felt. And she is just doing the most she can for people and working with people in a quiet way. And I respect her for not, you know, trying to be made into a certain image, or become an Eleanor Roosevelt, or someone else. She's just being herself.”
- Julie Nixon Eisenhower
describing her mother Pat Nixon's approach to the position of first lady in an ABC News special report, "A Visit with the First Lady," aired September 12, 1971
Sources Consulted and Further Reading
Halpern, Frances. “WORDS AND IMAGES : Rhetorical Quest : Celebrate the season of questionable assertions with a collection of gaffes and zingers from our elected leaders.” Los Angeles Times. October 15, 1992. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1992-10-15-vl-259-story.html.
Richard Nixon Foundation. “A Visit With the First Lady – Pat Nixon Interview.” YouTube Video. 53:19. March 27, 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ABfQjJGNQ78.