President Richard M. Nixon: Early Personal Life

About the early personal life of President Richard M. Nixon including the courting of his wife.

Personal Life: As he was growing up, Richard expressed little enthusiasm for the company of women. As one classmate recalled: "Oh, he used to dislike us girls so! He would make horrible faces at us. As a debater, his main theme in grammar school and the 1st years of high school was why he hated girls." This situation improved only slightly with time. As Nixon's mother recalled: "Richard was not much of a mixer in college, either. He never had any special buddy, and on the dates that he had during his college years he talked not of romance but about such things as what might have happened to the world if Persia had conquered the Greeks." The one girl who managed to arouse Richard's interest was Ola-Florence Welch, the daughter of the Whittier police chief. They met while acting together in a high school play and dated each other for 6 years. Most of their friends expected them to get married, but Nixon's stormy temper eventually caused problems in their relationship. On one occasion, he took Ola-Florence to a prom, but they began arguing on the dance floor and Dick simply walked out on her. She had to phone her parents to come and pick her up. After Richard went away to Duke's School of Law, Ola-Florence began seeing another boy--Gail Jobe, the man she eventually married. Nevertheless, Nixon still considered her "my girl," and when he came home during one vacation he called Ola and demanded that she see him immediately. That was impossible as Gail Jobe was sitting in Ola's living room at the moment Dick called. But Nixon wouldn't take no for an answer. "Ola, I'm coming over," he said. When she still refused, he "went through the roof." "Don't worry," he told her, "you'll never hear from me again." Despite this promise, he continued writing letters to Ola-Florence for several months. As she remembers them, "his letters were well-written and informative. Nothing mushy. He always kept himself in check." Meanwhile, Nixon concentrated on his law school studies and took little interest in social life, though he occasionally attended dances "stag."

In 1938 Nixon was back in Whittier and beginning his legal career when a friend told him about a gorgeous redhead who had recently arrived in town. Pat Ryan had been hired to teach typing and shorthand at the local high school. Her real name was Thelma Catherine Ryan, but her father, an Irish miner in Ely, Nev., had been so thrilled by the fact that his daughter had been born the day before St. Patrick's day that he called her "St. Patrick's Babe in the Morn." Eventually this was shortened to Pat. As a girl, Pat spent most of her time nursing her mother, who died of cancer when Pat was 13, and her father, who died 4 years later. Pat managed to finish high school, then went to New York and worked as a secretary and X-ray technician. Eventually, she saved enough money to enroll at the University of Southern California. In order to support herself, she worked in a department store and as a Hollywood extra. After graduation came the teaching job at Whittier. She joined an amateur theater group to make new friends, and one night at rehearsal in walked Richard Nixon. He had come there specifically to meet Pat, but he accepted a part in the play as a crusading district attorney--the 2nd romantic lead. After rehearsal, Nixon drew Pat aside and following a brief conversation he asked her to marry him. She stared at him and blinked her eyes. "I thought he was nuts," she later recalled. In the months that followed, Nixon pursued Pat with the same dogged persistence he later used on Alger Hiss. Pat was one of the most popular young women in Whittier, and she dated all of the town's most eligible bachelors. As she remembered it, Nixon "would drive me to meet other beaux, and wait around to take me home." After 2 full years of this, Pat finally capitulated. They were married in an ornate hotel in Riverside, Calif., when Pat was 28 and Richard was 27. Shortly thereafter, they moved into their 1st home--a small apartment over a garage.

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