Nixon Administration Official Pat Hitt Dies at 87
Patricia Reilly Hitt, longtime political and civic volunteer, public official and a pioneer for women in politics and government, died peacefully Monday afternoon, January 9, at her home on Balboa Island of natural causes.
As national co-chair of the 1968 Nixon Presidential campaign, she was the first woman to hold that senior post in either party. She died on Nixon’s 93rd birthday.
She was raised in Whittier, the daughter of Vera and John B. Reilly, members of the original committee that urged young naval officer Richard Nixon to run for Congress. Mrs. Hitt graduated from the University of Southern California in 1939 with a degree in education.
She began her campaign work ringing doorbells for Nixon in his first run for office, his successful congressional campaign in 1946.
She worked in all of Nixon’s later campaigns, including Senate, Vice President, Governor of California and President. She chaired several other successful campaigns, including Robert Finch for Lt. Governor of California and George Murphy for U.S. Senate, and was a senior advisor to Pete Wilson in his campaigns for U.S. Senate and Governor.
“Bright, attractive, energetic and tireless, Pat managed to get everything done and made it look easy. She was a multi-tasker of extraordinary capability and was someone you could absolutely rely on. She never failed to follow through and accomplish whatever she had committed to do,” said longtime friend Governor Pete Wilson.
“But Pat was so much more than a highly skilled and effective administrator. Deeply caring and thoughtful, she demonstrated the same focus, dedication and problem-solving intelligence in helping friends that she brought to her challenging work as a high official in the Nixon administration. You could not spend any time with her without being impressed with her keen intelligence and strength of character. It showed in so many ways, not least in her work as a volunteer for President Nixon, for Bob Finch, and for me both as a candidate for the U.S. Senate and for Governor. Pat was a warm personal friend and a truly great lady. I admired her and will miss her greatly,” said Wilson.
In 1960, she was elected Republican National Committeewoman from California and gave the opening speech at the Republican National Convention in 1964.
One of Hitt’s missions in politics and government was to encourage women to become more active as candidates, willing and able to compete as women based on abilities, not on entitlements.
In January of 1969, President Nixon named her to the senior Administration post of Assistant Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, responsible for Community and Field Services that included coordination of the department’s ten regional field offices.
During her term, she represented President Nixon as his emissary on official state visits to China, Russia, Ethiopia, and South America.
She served as one of the original trustees of the Richard Nixon Foundation, the organization formed to create RN’s Presidential Library.
While living in her beloved Orange County, she was an original incorporator of the City of Villa Park. She served on numerous Boards and Foundations, including Trustee for Chapman and Whittier Colleges, Designing Women (Laguna Beach Art Museum), Human Options, and the Los Angeles Orthopedic Hospital. She was a member of P.E.O., USC Trojan League, and held national office in the Assistance League. She remained connected with Washington, DC, by serving on the President’s Commission on White House Fellows.
In 1940 she married Frank Hamilton with whom she had two children. Following World War II, she married Robert J. Hitt, an Orange County business executive who later acted as administrative assistant to Rogers C. B. Morton, Secretary of the Interior and later Secretary of Commerce. Bob preceded his wife in death in November, 1994.
She received many awards and recognitions, including honorary degrees from Whittier College and Chapman University, Order of the Rose from Delta Gamma, Los Angeles Times Woman of the Year, and the USC Alumni Merit Award.
She is survived by two sons, Rick (Peggy) and John (Kathy) Hamilton of Newport Beach, a sister, Kathy Miller, of Laguna Beach, five grandchildren, and six great grandchildren.
A memorial service for family and friends will be held at the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace, 18001 Yorba Linda Boulevard, Yorba Linda, at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, January 26. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations be made to the Richard Nixon Library, Human Options or the USC Athletic Department.