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Richard Nixon's love letters to wife Pat go on display

March 13, 2012 |  8:04 am

Richard and Pat Nixon

Love letters between future President Richard Nixon and his future bride Pat will be on display at the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda during the next several months. They are part of a special exhibit celebrating what would have been Pat Nixon's 100th birthday.

The letters, exhibit curator Bob Bostock said, are "really personal and charming and really help illuminate how their relationship started and what they were hoping to accomplish with their lives."

The correspondence spans 1938 to 1940, when the couple married. Pat Nixon died in 1993 in New Jersey, one year before her husband.

The letters show a side of a man rarely associated in the public imagination with romance and passion.

In one, referring to himself in the third person, he writes: “And when the wind blows and the rains fall and the sun shines through the clouds (as it is now) he still resolves, as he did then, that nothing so fine ever happened to him or anyone else as falling in love with Thee -- my dearest heart.”

"You can't read them and not see a warm, personal, somewhat playful side of Richard Nixon," said Richard "Sandy" Quinn, president of the Richard Nixon Foundation.

The foundation, largely run by Nixon's family and former staff members, is co-hosting the exhibit. It comes about a year after the opening at the library of a new and unflinching exhibit about the Watergate scandal. Foundation leaders have been highly critical of that display, saying it should have been more friendly to the former president.

Six letters will be made available during the exhibit (two at a time), but dozens from the couple's courtship and marriage belonging to the Nixon family are stored at the library, Bostock said. He read many of them while preparing the display.

Taken together, the correspondence paints a portrait of young love between two people who "both wanted to travel and make a mark," he said.

Thelma Catherine "Pat" Ryan and Richard Nixon met in 1938 when both were cast in a community production of the play "The Dark Tower" in Whittier. He proposed two years later as they sat in his car near the edge of a cliff in Dana Point, according to the exhibit.

Pat's engagement ring is displayed next to two of the letters, along with a playbill from "The Dark Tower."

In sharp contrast to Richard Nixon's letters, Pat's are light, humorous and more concerned with setting dates than making amorous declarations.

"Hi-ho, Hi-ho!" she wrote in 1938. "How does it go? It would be good to see and hear -- . Night school is over about 9 so if you are through with club meeting perhaps I'll see you?"


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Photo: Richard Nixon hugs his wife, Pat, in Los Angeles in 1952. Correspondence exchanged between the two before they were married in 1940 is on display at the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda. Credit:  Associated Press