Thelma Catherine “Pat” Nixon

Lived:March 16, 1912—June 22, 1993 (aged 81)
Career:First lady of the United States, 1969-1974
Education:B.S., University of Southern California

Thelma Catherine "Pat" Nixon was first lady of the United States from 1969-1974, the wife of the 37th president of the United States, Richard Milhous Nixon.

Nixon was born on March 16, 1912, in Ely, Nevada and raised in California. She was given the nickname "Pat" by her father, in reference to her birthdate and Irish ancestry. Her mother died in 1925 and her father in 1930. She graduated cum laude from the University of Southern California in 1937 with a Bachelor of Science degree in merchandising and a teaching certificate. She accepted a high school teaching position in Whittier, California, where she met Richard Nixon when they were cast together in a local theater production. They married in 1940.

During World War II, she worked as a government economist while he served in the Navy. She campaigned for her husband in his 1946 and 1948 U.S. House of Representative races, as well as in his 1960 and 1968 presidential campaigns. During Mr. Nixon's two terms as vice president (1953-1961), Mrs. Nixon traveled with him, visiting 53 nations.

As first lady, Nixon continued her travels and was the first first lady to enter a combat zone (South Vietnam). One of her major initiatives was to promote volunteerism. She also worked to preserve and enhance the White House, and oversaw the addition of more than 600 paintings and furnishings to its collections. Other White House renovations included the installation of an exterior lighting system and the installation of ramps for the handicapped. In 1972, she became the first Republican first lady to address a national convention.

After the resignation of her husband from the presidency in 1974, Nixon rarely appeared in public or granted media interviews. She died on June 22, 1993.


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The White House. (n.d.). Patricia Ryan Nixon. Retrieved on October 5, 2020, from