Nixon campaign aide Patricia Hitt dead at 87, The Balboa Island resident encouraged women to get involved in politics:
By ROBIN HINCH
The Orange County Register
Patricia “Pat” Hitt
Survivors: Sons, Rick and John Hamilton; sister, Kathy Miller; five grandchildren; six great-grandchildren
Services: 11 a.m. Jan. 26, Nixon Library & Birthplace, Yorba Linda
Patricia “Pat” Hitt, national co-chairwoman of Richard Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign, former assistant secretary of Health, Education and Welfare and a longtime advocate for women in politics, has died at 87.
She died Monday, on Nixon’s 93rd birthday, at her home on Balboa Island.
A native of Whittier, Hitt graduated from USC in 1939 and married Frank Hamilton the following year. After her divorce from Hamilton a few years later, she married Robert Hitt, an Orange County business executive, and settled on Balboa Island.
She came by politics naturally. Her parents, Vera and John Reilly, were members of the original committee that urged young Nixon to run for Congress.
Hitt started ringing doorbells for that campaign in 1946.
She later chaired campaigns for Robert Finch for California lieutenant governor (and became one of Finch’s close friends), George Murphy for U.S. Senate and was senior adviser to Pete Wilson when he ran for U.S. Senate and for governor.
Bright, energetic and endlessly enthusiastic, Hitt plunged just as eagerly into community affairs.
She insisted on moving her family from Balboa Island, her son John said, when she couldn’t persuade the Irvine Co. to donate land for a park. She wanted her boys to have room to play ball, so they moved to Villa Park. She then helped get the city incorporated.
In 1960, she was elected Republican national committeewoman and gave the opening speech at the 1964 Republican National Convention.
One of her primary goals in politics was to get more women to run for office and to be involved in political campaigns.
At home in Orange County, she gave countless hours to charitable organizations and was one of the original trustees of the Richard Nixon Foundation, which created Nixon’s Presidential Library.
In 1969, she was asked by then-Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Robert Finch to serve as assistant secretary of that agency. She said that she was reluctant to take a paid position because she didn’t want to be beholden to anyone, but she couldn’t say no to an old friend.
The job had her traveling around the world and found her many times aboard Air Force One. Hitt had such high ethical standards that even when traveling on a diplomat’s passport, she declared everything at the customs gate. And the only freebies she’d take from Air Force One were Laura Scudder’s peanut butter and See’s candies – delicacies she couldn’t get in Washington, D.C.
Shortly before the Watergate scandal broke in 1973, Hitt decided to return to Orange County. She missed home, she said, and settled again in Newport on Balboa Island.
She also missed the good old days of politics.
“In those days, campaigns were fun,” Hitt told a Register reporter in 1999. “Now, the people get paid. For us, it was very personal. We wrote those letters, licked those stamps, stuffed those envelopes. It was volunteers banding together to make a difference.”
When Nixon resigned his presidency and returned to San Clemente in 1974, Hitt took her whole family to meet his plane at the El Toro Marine base because she was afraid no one else would be there to greet him. As it turned out, she was joined by hundreds of others.
That she died on Nixon’s birthday didn’t surprise her family.
Days before, a friend had asked her, “What is Jan. 9?”
“R.N.’s birthday,” Hitt whispered weakly. Then she added, “I’m not ready yet.”