Let­ters re­veal Nixon as young Romeo

The Washington Times Daily - - Nation - BY GIL­LIAN FLAC­CUS

YORBA LINDA, CALIF. | Long be­fore Richard Nixon rose to power and fell from grace, the fu­ture pres­i­dent was just an­other man in love.

Decades be­fore he be­came known to some as “Tricky Dick,” Nixon was the one coin­ing nick­names (sweet ones) for his fu­ture bride, in gushy love notes that re­veal a sur­pris­ingly soft and ro­man­tic side of the man taken down by Water­gate. Nixon shared the stage with Pa­tri­cia Ryan in a com­mu­nity the­ater pro­duc­tion and six of the dozens of let­ters they ex­changed dur­ing their two-year courtship will be un­veiled Fri­day at the Richard Nixon Pres­i­den­tial Li­brary and Mu­seum as part of an ex­hibit cel­e­brat­ing the 100th birth­day of the woman Mr. Nixon play­fully called his “Ir­ish gypsy.”

In Nixon’s let­ters, he re­calls their first meet­ing in flow­ery prose, day­dreams about their fu­ture to­gether and waxes po­etic about the first time his “dear­est heart” agreed to take a drive with him.

“Ev­ery day and ev­ery night I want to see you and be with you. Yet I have no feel­ing of self­ish own­er­ship or jeal­ousy,” he writes in one un­dated let­ter. “Let’s go for a long ride Sun­day; let’s go to the moun­tains week­ends; let’s read books in front of fires; most of all, let’s re­ally grow to­gether and find the hap­pi­ness we know is ours.”

Nearly 18 years af­ter Nixon’s death, the cor­re­spon­dence of­fers a tiny win­dow into a fiercely pri­vate side of Nixon that al­most no one ever saw and rep­re­sents a love let­ter of sorts to fans of the 37th pres­i­dent, who were in­fu­ri­ated when the Na­tional Archives took over the mu­seum and over­hauled it to in­clude a de­tailed chron­i­cle of Water­gate.

“These let­ters are fab­u­lous. It’s a to­tally dif­fer­ent per­son from the Water­gate tapes that peo­ple know,” said Olivia Anas­tasiadis, su­per­vi­sory mu­seum cu­ra­tor.

In stark con­trast to the grim-faced leader forced to re­sign in 1974, the young Nixon comes across as an ar­dent and per­sis­tent suitor in the let­ters, which date from 1938 to just be­fore the cou­ple’s mar­riage in June 1940.

The two met while au­di­tion­ing for “The Dark Tower” in the South­ern Cal­i­for­nia town of Whit­tier and dated for two years be­fore Nixon pro­posed to his sweet­heart on the south Orange County cliffs over­look­ing the Pa­cific Ocean. They were mar­ried in a small cer­e­mony June 21, 1940.

In two of the hand­writ­ten notes, Nixon — raised a Quaker — uses “thee” in­stead of “you” to re­fer to his fu­ture bride, a pro­noun that sig­nals a spe­cial close­ness in the Quaker tra­di­tion. He also writes about him­self in the third per­son, re­fer­ring to him­self as a “pro­saic per­son” whose heart was nonethe­less “filled with that grand po­etic mu­sic” upon know­ing her.

“Some­how on Tues­day there was some­thing elec­tric in the usu­ally al­most sti­fling air in Whit­tier. And now I know. An Ir­ish gypsy who ra­di­ates all that is happy and beau­ti­ful was there,” Nixon wrote.

A much more prac­ti­cal — and some­what less im­pul­sive — Pat Ryan replies in one short note: “In case I don’t see you be­fore why don’t you come early Wed­nes­day (6) and I’ll see if I can burn a ham­burger for you.”


Six of the dozens of let­ters Richard Nixon and Pa­tri­cia Ryan ex­changed dur­ing their two-year courtship will be un­veiled Fri­day at the Richard Nixon Pres­i­den­tial Li­brary and Mu­seum in Yorba Linda, Calif.

Pat Nixon

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