Name at birth: Thelma Catherine Ryan
Pat Nixon was the wife of U.S. president Richard Nixon and served as First Lady from 20 January 1969 to 8 August 1974. She grew up in southern California, taking on adult family responsibilities at an early age. By the time she was out of high school both parents had died and Patricia "Pat" Ryan, as she called herself, moved to New York on her own. She returned to California and graduated from the University of Southern California with a degree in merchandising (1937), then got certified to teach high school. She was working as a teacher in Whittier, California when she met Richard Nixon, and after two years of his persistence, Pat married him on 21 June 1940. While Pat was having daughters Julie (1946) and Tricia (1948), Richard was winning elections to the U.S. House of Representatives. Throughout her husband's political career she was known to voters as the steadfast and supportive -- some would say long-suffering -- political spouse. As First Lady, Pat Nixon is remembered for collecting furnishings and Americana, for making the White House more accessible to the public and, mostly, for her many travels around the world, with and without her husband. After Nixon was forced to resign from office in 1974 Mrs. Nixon avoided the press and rarely made public appearances. A longtime cigarette smoker (a vice hidden from the public), her last years were spent fighting lung infections and cancer.
She got the name Pat from her Irish father, in celebration of her birthday being so close to St. Patrick’s Day… She and Nixon appeared together in the Whittier Little Theater Group production of The Dark Tower — that’s how they met… She must have been a busy bride’s mom: Julie married Dwight David Eisenhower II just a month after Nixon won the presidential election of 1968, and Tricia married Edward Finch Cox in the White House in 1971… She died a day after the Nixons’ 53rd wedding anniversary… In July 1969 First Lady Nixon visited a war zone in South Vietnam, riding in on a helicopter.