For my blog post today about Conrad Black’s Richard M. Nixon: A Life in Full, I’ll use as my starting-point something that Black says on page 720 about Richard Nixon’s daughter, Tricia:
“She had avoided all public attention after she wrote a supportive letter to Georgia governor Lester Maddox, an Atlanta restauranteur who had refused to serve African-Americans and distributed axe handles to sympathizers, and ultimately closed his Pickrick Restaurant rather than integrate it.”
This really surprised me! I had never heard or read about this before. I did some searching on the Internet, and I found a couple of articles.
The first article I found was from the September 22, 1969 Harvard Crimson, and it was about Tricia Nixon’s boyfriend, Edward Cox (who would later become her husband), who was enrolling in Harvard Law School. The article states:
“Tricia, who once encouraged Georgia’s Governor Lester Maddox to turn his chicken restaurant into a private club to avoid Federal civil rights laws, is reportedly the most conservative member of the Nixon family. Washington columnists say that Cox is politically left of both Tricia and her father.”
I suppose that I already knew that Tricia was rather conservative, on some level. I think that I read about her defending her father’s policies when I was reading Nixon’s memoirs. Maybe I chalked that up to her loyalty to her father, since I had a hard time picturing her as particularly political or ideological (not that I know her). But it turns out that she was quite conservative ideologically, perhaps even to the right of her father.
In this article, there is a quotation of what Tricia Nixon said to a Parade reporter, as she explained her letter to Lester Maddox: “I’m not a segregationist, but private property is private property, and you should be able to do with it as you please. I don’t believe as Lester Maddox does, but our views happened to coincide for different reasons.” That’s the sort of rationale that you will find in the words of Barry Goldwater, Ron Paul, and Rand Paul.
I’d like to share a few related items. First, I liked something that Richard Nixon said on pages 105-106 of In the Arena, as he was talking about his coach at Whittier, Chief Newman:
“He not only talked a good civil rights game, he lived it. In 1921, when he was a star at USC playing tackle on defense and fullback on offense, Chief went into his favorite restaurant near the campus with Bryce Taylor, one of the first black players ever to play on a Trojan team. The counterman said he couldn’t eat there. Chief exploded, ‘You serve him or you don’t serve me.’ Forty-three years before the Civil Rights Act outlawed discrimination in public facilities, it ended at that restaurant.”
Second, on page 80 of volume 2 of his memoirs, Richard Nixon shares a diary entry that he wrote about a discussion that he had with his daughters, Julie and Tricia, about the Vietnam War. Nixon was planning to bomb critical targets, and he was listening to his daughters’ feedback. He stated in his diary:
“Julie seemed concerned about it in terms of whether it would work. She obviously has done a lot of reading about past failures on the military side in Vietnam. She also was aware of the fact that many had become so disillusioned with the war that we might not have enough public support for it. I mentioned the fact that if we did not do this the United States would cease to be a respected world power. She rejoined with the observation that there were many who felt that the United States shouldn’t be a great power. This, of course, is the kind of poison that is fed into so many of the younger generation by their professors. She was sure, however, that David would totally agree with the decision, and she seemed sensitive to what the needs were.
“Tricia’s reaction was immediately positive because she felt we had to do something, and frankly didn’t know what else we could do to avoid a continued deterioration in the battle areas.”
Tricia’s reaction does not particularly surprise me, in light of her conservatism. Julie’s reaction, however, intrigues me. I think that it would be too simplistic to say that Julie was a liberal, for Nixon earlier in his memoirs refers to a note Julie left him that said: “You explained the situation in Vietnam perfectly…I feel that the strongest message which resulted from your speech was: We cannot abandon 17 million people to a living death, and we cannot jeopardize the chances for future world peace by an unqualified pull-out of Vietnam” (volume 1, pages 560-561). But Julie did appear to be open to alternative points-of-view. Still, at this point, I cannot make dogmatic statements about her political ideology, since I have not yet read her books.
UPDATE: According to this article, Julie in 2008 donated to Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama, whereas Tricia donated to Republican Presidential candidate John McCain.