Grateful American® Foundation

Written by Ed Lengel

Richard Nixon’s Children

Richard Nixon (1913-1994) was one of the most controversial presidents in American history, but he had a long and distinguished political career for much of his life; his family was a bright spot in times of trouble. Born to Quaker parents in Yorba Linda, California, he served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific in World War II; then, he became a Republican Congressman and a Senator between 1947-1950 and 1950-1953, respectively. Afterwards, he was Dwight D. Eisenhower’s vice president for eight years.

In 1960 he ran for president against John F. Kennedy and lost. Two years later, he ran for governor of California, but was defeated, again. When he won the presidency in 1968, the victory was considered a stunning comeback. It was succeeded by a 1972 landslide re-election. Nixon seemed destined to stand as one of the twentieth century’s outstanding political figures, but his 1974 resignation as a result of the Watergate scandal, ended his career—even though he “returned” as an advisor to subsequent presidents.

Thelma Catherine Ryan (1912-1993), better known as “Pat,” was born in Ely, Nevada, and attended the University of Southern California. A teacher, but also an aspiring actress, she met Richard Nixon in a theater group, and married him on June 21, 1940 in Riverside, California. Their two children would be born in 1946 and 1948, after their father returned from World War II, but just on the cusp of his long and demanding political career. An active and dedicated First Lady who was deeply committed to her family, Pat Nixon suffered deeply from Watergate, but stayed devoted to her husband and children for the rest of her life.

Patricia Nixon

Born on February 21, 1946 in Whittier, California, “Tricia” as she was known, accompanied her family to Washington, D.C. as a young girl. From the very beginning, her life—and Julie’s–were influenced by their father’s political career. Pat Nixon, though, was dedicated to her children, and her husband also sought as much as possible to trim his ambitions to his family’s needs. When the family attended their father’s speech at the National Press Club in 1954, for example, he abbreviated his speech when he saw eight-year-old Tricia restless and on the verge of tears.[1]

Tricia attended public school and Sidwell Friends School in Washington, D.C. Always on political “duty”, she got to entertain the children of politicians and visiting dignitaries by taking them on rides at Glen Echo Park. As much as possible, her mother tried to provide her daughters with typical, and happy, American lives. Interviewed in 1956 about an impending trip to San Francisco for the girls, Pat Nixon said: “We’ve promised them a ride on the cable cars when they get here. They’ve been in camp in Vermont this summer and they had fun earning money for it. They do chores around the house—like feeding the pets. We have Checkers, the dog, some goldfish, two alligators, until I convinced the girls to give them to the zoo, and two cats they dearly love, Puff and Rosey. Until a short time ago, we had four kittens and there are more to come. We didn’t know what we were going to do with the kittens, so the girls lettered a sign and put it in front. It said, ‘Free kittens.’ They gave away three the first hour. I told the girls to save the sign.”[2]

On December 30, 1964, at the age of eighteen, Tricia Nixon ‘came out’ at the International Debutante Ball at New York City’s Astor Hotel, escorted by Edward Finch Cox, who was to be her future husband. “She isn’t the kind who goes much for deb parties,” her mother remarked on the occasion. “She liked the idea of this ball because of its international flavor. We tried to give a private party for her, but she would have none of it.” Afterwards, she attended Finch College in New York, and then transferred to Boston College, from which she graduated in June 1968. After her father’s election to the presidency later that year, Tricia provided a special children’s tour of the White House, exclaiming “I know I’m going to love living here!”[3]

Tricia did live at the White House the next few years, but she never revealed that she was secretly engaged to Edward Finch Cox, whom she had met at a school dance in 1963. They married in the White House Rose Garden on June 12, 1971, with a massive 350-pound, seven-foot-tall wedding cake that nearly overwhelmed the White House pastry chef.[4]

Tricia continued to support her father and the Republican Party during the next few years, but in 1974 her thoughts focused on her mother as she sorted through the ramifications of Watergate. “Tricia would come to the Lincoln sitting room at some of my lowest times and just sit with me while I read or worked, in a quiet tribute of love and support,” Pat Nixon later remembered. Afterwards, Tricia largely chose to stay out of the public spotlight, focusing on raising her son with Cox; the couple re-appeared at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in June 1996 to renew their wedding vows.[5]

Julie Nixon

Born on July 5, 1948, in Washington, D.C., Julie Nixon shared many of the same childhood experiences as Tricia, as they navigated life in the nation’s capital within the family of a prominent politician. Like Tricia, Julie delighted in the family pets—and sharing them–with others; in 1957, she chose a kitten named “Nixie” with a “cute fat face” to be sent to a victim of childhood polio in Chicago. Julie was also, from the beginning, the more outgoing of the two. When a reporter visited the Nixon family in 1950, she was greeted by “a very small girl in cowboy boots and overalls, who said, ‘Name Julie Nixon. I bus’ my collar bone.’ From the proud twinkle in her eye, I judged Miss Julie Nixon, aged two, will always be on the lookout for adventures which may result in busted collar bones. Merrier eyes I never saw.”[6]

Julie attended the same schools as Tricia, but when her father lost the presidential election in 1960, the family moved back to California, and then to New York. On December 30, 1966, following her sister’s example, Julie—“a tall, rosy-cheeked brunette”—appeared at the International Debutante Ball in New York, escorted by her future husband: “a curly-haired lad” named David Eisenhower, who was the grandson of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower. She was then a freshman at Smith College, and he was at Amherst College. They were engaged in 1967 and married on December 22, 1968 in New York City’s Marble Collegiate Church. Julie continued her studies at Catholic University in Washington, D.C., and received a master’s degree in education in 1971. Afterwards, she worked as an assistant editor in adult and children’s literature at the Curtis Publishing Company in Philadelphia.[7]

Watergate was an ordeal for the entire family, but each of the daughters sought to console their mother and father. “Julie would often leave her copy of the new English edition of the New Testament on my bedstand, opened to some consoling passage,” Pat Nixon remembered. Julie also took the lead in facing the press during the lengthy crisis, defending her parents to the best of her ability. Afterwards, her interest and ability in writing burgeoned, and she wrote Pat Nixon: The Untold Story, and several other books.[8]

Julie Nixon had three children with David Eisenhower. Julie and her sister have been actively supported the Richard Nixon Foundation, and the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.

[1] Des Moines Register, Jan. 11, 1954.

[2] Tallahassee Democrat, May 21, 1956; The Journal Herald, Aug. 24, 1956.

[3] Associated Press, Dec. 31, 1964; New York Times, Dec. 13, 1968.

[4] United Press, June 12, 1971.

[5] Orlando Sentinel, May 6, 1978; Associated Press, June 13, 1996.

[6] Chicago Tribune, April 20, 1957; Van Nuys News, Oct. 2, 1950.

[7] Associated Press, Dec. 31, 1966; United Press, Dec. 12, 1973.

[8] Orlando Sentinel, May 6, 1978.

Partners & Supporters