21 Aug

Church Building in Yorba Linda

When Frank and Hannah Nixon moved to Yorba Linda, there was almost nothing there. Early residents compared Yorba Linda to “a filling station in the desert” to paint the image of a nearly non-existent town. While there was not much of a town, that did not mean that there was not much to do.

Frank Nixon built the house that Richard Nixon was born in on January 9, 1913, narly 100 years ago. He also planted almost ten acres of lemon trees. Plus he helped to build the Yorba Linda Friends Church, and then taught Sunday School to the children. Famed writer and Nixon cousin Jessamyn West recalled that Frank Nixon’s Sunday School class was the most popular in town.

The church eventually was acquired by Baptists, but it still stands tall in Yorba Linda.

Frank Nixon helped build the first Friends Church in Yorba Linda

29 Jul

History Ringing True

In researching Nixon’s governor’s race in 1962, I am struck by the applicability of Nixon’s words to the present Presidential Contest.

When Nixon was helicoptering out to kick off the official campaign, he flew over the 12th Congressional District where he began his political career. Nixon saw how much the landscape had changed over the years. The orange, lemon and avocado groves he used to drive through were mostly gone, replaced by thousands of homes and shopping centers. When he arrived in Pomona he reflected on what he saw from the helicopter, relating it to his political philosophy: “What created all this wealth? What created this progress? Government didn’t create it. The instrument of progress for California and the nation is private individual enterprise and I’m for more of it rather than less of it.”

A few weeks later, in addressing the monthly brotherhood meeting at the University Synagogue in Brentwood, Nixon explained that “it is the people, not the government, that has created both the material and spiritual greatness of our country.”

President Obama would do well to remember the words of Richard Nixon spoken fifty years ago.

7 Jul

A Rich History of Nixon in Yorba Linda

Richard Nixon was born at 9:35 p.m., weighing in at eleven pounds! He was born in the front room of the house his father built. Just twenty-five yards out the front door was the Anaheim “ditch” where the Nixon boys learned to swim – against the wishes of their father!

Anaheim Bridge

The Red Bridge over the Anaheim ditch, with the north side of the Nixon home in background.

A Home Frank Nixon built

Richard Nixon was born in the front room to the left

25 Mar

Good Stock

Richard Nixon’s parents, Frank and Hannah, met on Valentine’s Day 1908, at the Whittier Friends Church.

They were married just over four months later at the East Whittier Women’s Clubhouse.  There were married 48 years until Frank’s death on September 4, 1956. They had five boys: Harold Samuel, Richard Milhous, Francis Donald, Arthur Burdg and Edward Calvert.

Harold and Arthur died at young ages. Richard, Don and Ed each married the loves of their lives. Richard and Pat Nixon were married fifty-three years until Pat’s death in 1993. Richard and Pat had two children—Tricia and Julie—who each married as young adults, had children, and are still married to the loves of their lives. Don and Clara Jane wed in 1942 and were together forty-five years until Don’s death in 1987. Ed and Gay have been married since 1957. The Nixon family has not been plagued with issues such as divorce, alcohol, or drug abuse that have afflicted so many other prominent families. That the Nixon family has remained strong is a testament to the strength and character of Hannah and Frank Nixon and all their relatives. Frank and Hannah were good stock.

Frank & Hannah Nixon were wed here in June 1908

18 Mar

Pat was an Irish Rose

Pat Nixon was Richard’s Irish Rose. On her birthday weekend it is fitting to see them at the 1960 Rose Parade.

Richard & Pat Nixon at the 1960 Rose Parade

15 Mar

Pat Nixon’s Modest – And First – Whittier Home

More and more terrific articles are appearing regarding the young dating life of Pat and Richard Nixon. Recently the Los Angeles Times (which endorsed Nixon in every political race in which he was a candidate) weighed in on the issue with a refreshing story.

Having researched the Nixons in Southern California for some time now, I am pleased to show the house where Pat lived her first two years in Whittier. Pat actually rented a room from Ray and Edna Collins on Terrace Park, Whittier. Pat moved to Whittier in 1937 and lived with the Collins while she dated Richard.


Pat Nixon's first home in Whittier

13 Mar

Great Articles To Read As We Approach Pat’s Centennial Celebration

In just a few days the Richard Nixon Library & Birthplace will celebrate Pat Nixon’s 100th birthday. As the big day approaches, there are some great articles and videos available to to learn more about the Nixons. For example, Richard was quite taken with Pat from the time they first met in January 1938 at St. Mathias Church in Whittier. Nixon expressed his feelings in letters to which Pat had some somewhat humorous responses. Most major media outlets are covering the opening of the Pat Nixon Centennial exhibit set to open at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library on March 16. This is a great time to learn more about Richard and Pat Nixon!

29 Feb

Great Nixon Tour Now Available

This year we celebrate Pat Nixon’s 100th birthday, and next year is Richard Nixon’s 100th as well. As we near these milestones, there are some great opportunities to learn more about Pat and Richard Nixon and their Southern California roots and life.

Take for instance a tour that has been recently set up. “Meet the Nixons” is a great compliment to Native Son: Richard Nixon’s Southern California and a terrific learning experience for anyone interested in learning about the humble beginings of our 37th President right here in Southern California.

14 Jan

Native Son: Richard Nixon’s Southern California is a Great Gift

There is no doubt that Richard Nixon is an intriguing man. He is also, quite likely, the most influential person in the second half of the twentieth century. We can only better ourselves by learning more about President Nixon and his history. I am flattered  that the Nixon Foundation has selected Native Son: Richard Nixon’s Southern California as a great gift for anyone wanting to learn more about Nixon.

31 Dec

Vanishing History

Two recent articles in the Los Angeles Times caught my eye. The first concerned Gene Summers, a Los Angeles architect that renovated and re-established the Biltmore Hotel Los Angeles. The second concerened the shuttering of the Wilshire Grand Hotel.

The Ambassador, Biltmore, and Wilshire Grand were the three primary hotels in Los Angeles where Richard Nixon spent most of his time either campaigning, visiting supporters and meeting the party faithful, or living when he was in town. The Ambassador was leveled in February 2006. Now the Wilshire Grand faces the same fate, making way for a new hotel tower.

The Wilshire Grand was originally opened as the Statler Hotel. Nixon moved into the Statler when he returned to California at the end of his Vice Presidency and began working at the downtown law firm of Adams, Duque & Hazeltine. In addition, a significant amount of campaign events were held in Pacific Ballroom and the various meeting rooms at the Statler during Nixon’s run for governor in 1962.

Now the hotel sits vacant, ready for demolition. The management of the hotel allowed me access to view the ballrooms one last time. It was eerie to be in such a large hotel, with no one else around.  

Apparently the cost of updating the nearly sixty year old hotel outweighs the benefit of starting with something new. Unless, of course, you appreciate history as Gene Summers did.

Summers took a nearly vacant and dilapidated Biltmore Hotel and revitalized it to the downtown historical landmark that it is today. the building has tremendous history. It was the headquarters of the 1960 Democrat convention, among other notable events, and the hotel guest list is a who’s who of American history. Same for the Wilshire Grand, which hosted the 2000 Democrat convention and had a guest list similar to the Biltmore. In addition, Ronald Reagan was the master of ceremonies when the hotel opened in 1952,  it was host to the 1952 Emmy Awards, and housed the jurors in the civil rights trial of officers charged in the beating of motorist Rodney King Jr.

So two stories, one day apart, one celebrating the life of a man who preserved history and the other pointing out our willingness to destroy the history in our midst.