Person:Thelma Ryan (1)

  1. William George Ryan1910 - 1997
  2. Thelma Catherine Ryan1912 - 1993
m. 21 Jun 1940
  1. Patricia Nixon1946 -
  2. Julie Nixon1948 -
Facts and Events
Name[4] Thelma Catherine Ryan
Married Name[3][4] Patricia Nixon
Gender Female
Birth[1][5] 16 Mar 1912 Ely, White Pine, Nevada, United States
Marriage 21 Jun 1940 Riverside, California, USAto Richard Milhous Nixon, 37th President of the United States
Death[1] 22 Jun 1993 Park Ridge, Bergen, New Jersey, United States
Burial[1] Yorba Linda, Orange, California, United StatesRichard Nixon Library and Birthplace
Reference Number? Q158707?

Patricia Ryan Nixon

Born Thelma Catherine Ryan on March 16 in Ely, Nevada, "Pat" Nixon acquired her nickname within hours. Her father, William Ryan, called her his "St. Patrick's babe in the morn" when he came home from the mines before dawn.

Soon the family moved to California and settled on a small truck farm near Los Angeles--a life of hard work with few luxuries. Her mother, Kate Halberstadt Bender Ryan, died in 1925; at 13 Pat assumed all the household duties for her father and two older brothers. At 18, she lost her father after nursing him through months of illness. Left on her own and determined to continue her education, she worked her way through the University of Southern California. She held part-time jobs on campus,as a sales clerk in a fashionable department store, and as an extra part-time movies--and she graduated cum laude in 1937.

She accepted a position as a high-school teacher in Whittier; and there she met Richard Nixon, who had come home from Duke University Law School to establish a practice. They became acquainted at a Little Theater group when they were cast in the same play, and were married on June 21,1940.

During World War II, she worked as a government economist while he served in the Navy. She campaigned at his side in 1946 when he entered politics, running successfully for Congress, and afterward. Within six years she saw him elected to the House, the Senate, and the Vice Presidency on the ticket with Dwight D. Eisenhower. Despite the demands of official life, the Nixons were devoted parents to their two daughters, Tricia (now Mrs. Edward Cox), and Julie (now Mrs. David Eisenhower).

A tireless campaigner when he ran unsuccessfully for President in 1960, she was at his side when he ran again in 1968--and won. She had once remarked succinctly, "It takes heart to be in political life."

Pat Nixon used her position as First Lady to encourage volunteer service--"the spirit of people helping people." She invited hundreds of families to non-denominational Sunday services in the East Room. She instituted a series of performances by artists in varied American traditions--from opera to bluegrass. Mrs. Nixon took quiet pride in adding 600 paintings and antiques to the White House Collection.

She had shared her husband's journeys abroad in his Vice Presidential years, and she continued the practice during his Presidency. Her travels included the historic visit to the People's Republic of China and the summit meetings the summit Soviet Union. Her first solo trip was a journey of compassion to take relief supplies to earthquake victims in Peru. Later she visited Africa and South America with the unique diplomatic standing of Personal Representative of the President. Always she was a charming envoy.

Mrs. Nixon met the troubled days of Watergate with dignity. "I love my husband," she said, "I believe in him, and I am proud of his accomplishments." She died at home in Park Ridge, New Jersey,on June 22, 1993. Her husband followed her in death ten months later. She and the former President are buried at the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, California.

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Pat Nixon, in National First Ladies Library.
  2.   "First Lady" Patricia Nixon: Her Life Began in Nevada, But Where?, in Nevada State Library and Archives.
  3. Pat Nixon, in Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Thelma Catherine Ryan (Pat Nixon), in The Richard Nixon Foundation: “St. Patrick’s Babe in the Morning” article by Jimmy Byron
    2 April 2010.

    Thelma Catherine Ryan was born in the late hours of March 16, 1912 in a miner’s shack in the small town of Ely, Nevada to William and Kate Ryan. At her mother’s insistence, the baby was named Thelma, though her father began calling her Babe, saying that she was “my St. Patrick’s Babe in the morning.” In the fall of 1931, she enrolled at Fullerton Junior College as Patricia Ryan; when asked why she changed her name, she answered, “Patricia was my father’s favorite name… I was his ‘St. Patrick’s Babe in the morning.’”

    Photo of First Lady Pat Nixon (1972)
  5. Discrepancies in Place of Birth: Pat Ryan Nixon's exact place of birth has been a matter of contention for some time. Her biography on the Richard Nixon Foundation website states that she was born in a miner's shack.5 Various towns in White Pine County have claimed to be her birthplace. However, her birth certificate gives her place of birth as being on Campton Street, west of the county courthouse. "An April 1912 Sanborn fire insurance map shows a concentration of modest houses on the south side of Campton Street between Fifth and Sixth streets. The confusion over Pat Nixon's birthplace may stem from the fact her father rented a number of dwellings during the four years the Ryan family resided in White Pine County." 3

    The Nevada State Library and Archives has an excellent article pertaining to the various discrepancies as to her birthplace.

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