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Richard Nixon's love letters go on exhibit

March 12, 2012|By Rene Lynch
  • A new exhibit offers a glimpse into the love life of Richard Nixon while he was courting Pat Ryan, whom he would later marry.
A new exhibit offers a glimpse into the love life of Richard Nixon while he… (Nixon Presidential Library…)

Richard Nixon sure had a way with his lady.

The nation's 37th president married his wife, Pat, after a courtship that was marked by love letters in which the two flirted the old-fashioned way: via pen and paper.

Nixon called her his "dearest heart" and his "Irish gypsy" in newly unveiled love letters going on display Friday at the Nixon Presidential Library & Museum in Yorba Linda. The exhibit honors First Lady Pat Nixon on what would have been her 100th birthday. 

"Every day and every night I want to see you and be with you," Nixon wrote in one 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."

By contrast, Pat played it coy and cool. 

She started out one letter, seen above, by saying "social note -- romantic?" She goes on: "In case I don't see you before why don't you come early Wednesday...and I'll see if I can burn a hamburger for you."

"It’s just so charming, and it shows a good sense of humor on her part," exhibit curator Robert Bostock told The Times.

The letters offer a softer, more personal view of the president forced to resign in 1974 due to the Watergate scandal.

Some of the language Nixon uses might sound stilted today: In two of the notes, Nixon addresses Pat as "thee." That's a pronoun commonly used among Quaker circles to suggest a special closeness, Bostock said. So Nixon, who was raised a Quaker, was letting Pat know just how special she was.

Nixon shows a literary bent as he recalls their encounter at a theater in Whittier during auditions for "The Dark Tower," according to the Associated Press, which examined the letters in advance of the exhibit's opening.

"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. She left behind her a note addressed to a struggling barrister who looks from a window and dreams. And in that note he found sunshine and flowers, and a great spirit which only great ladies can inspire," Nixon wrote. "Someday let me see you again? In September? Maybe?"

A seemingly fairy-tale courtship followed their first meeting, the wire service reported. The pair dated for two years, and Nixon proposed in south Orange County overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Her engagement ring was delivered in a small basket brimming with mayflowers. A small ceremony followed in June 1940. The two went on to raise two daughters.

Pat Nixon died on June 22, 1993 at 81. Richard Nixon died less than a year later, on April 22, 1994.


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