Parades, flags, ceremonies — a wonderful homecoming no doubt. On August 2, 1960 thousands gathered to celebrate Pat Nixon Day in the state of Nevada — most prominently, Pat Nixon.
RN happened to be in the middle of a presidential campaign when this festival was held. With Pat by his side, he told Pat’s story to those gathered:
Let me tell you the story of Pat. She moved to California at an early age with her father and her mother, and her mother died when she was 12 and she helped take care of her family of three brothers and her father after that. And her father died when she was 17, and she worked her way completely through college and university so the credit goes to her for that; she had no help whatever and I want to pay that tribute to her.
The crowd went wild. He went on:
When we campaigned for the House and the Senate, Pat was the one who never wore out. I’d get tired in the evenings, but she was still as bright and as charming at the end of the day as she was at the beginning.
He spoke about her trips as America’s Ambassador of Goodwill to over 45 countries during the eight Vice Presidential years:
When we took our trips around the world, you’ve heard about what I did, I’m sure – read about it – but Pat visited hospitals and children’s homes and orphanages, a leper colony in Panama, the first lady ever to go there and greet the inmates, things of this sort around the world, and may I say that whatever I may have said and done, I’m sure that she left behind a feeling of good will and affection for America that I could never have created by anything that I said.
And then, of course, a lot of you people have heard about our visit to the Soviet Union and, as you know, and I’ll have to admit, Mr. Khrushchev didn’t seem to think much of me but he liked Pat, that’s for sure!
Noting how appreciative he was that “Pat [is] always by my side,” he relayed what a Nebraska farmer had recently informed him: “Young fellow, my wife’s going to vote for you, but I’m going to vote for Pat.”
With the Guest of Honor seated beside him, he looked at her and wrapped it up by saying:
Whatever may happen in November, [she] is my first lady.
Though she and her family moved to California not long into her childhood, Pat Nixon remains the only First Lady to have been born in Nevada. Her portrait hands in the State Capitol Building.
Nevada State Archivist Guy Rocha said that Nevadans have always considered Pat Nixon “one of us.” For that reason, perhaps, there have been two Pat Nixon Days: August 2, 1960 and March 16, 2012 — the 100th anniversary of Mrs. Nixon’s birth, declared by Governor Brian Sandoval just three months ago.
Jimmy Byron is a Marketing and Communications Assistant. He is a second-year student at Chapman University.