The ninth White House wedding of a presidents' child.
Tricia Nixon and Edward Ridley Finch Cox
June 12, 1971
By some accounts “Tricia” Nixon was the most beautiful of all White House brides. She was featured alone as the cover story for Life magazine, not once, but twice. By January, 1971 the public was fascinated by her romance with Edward Finch Cox, a young Harvard law student who had once worked with consumer activist, Ralph Nader, and had written for the liberal New Republic.
Tricia Nixon and Ed Cox seemed to come from opposite social and political polls. The young Mr. Cox could trace his lineage back to a signer of the Declaration of Independence. His parents were “society pedigrees” who spent their summers at a Long Island estate that had been in the family for six generations. Richard Nixon was already a lightning rod of the media. He had once defended himself from charges of using a private fund for personal reasons by showcasing his modest, politician’s lifestyle, and saying that his wife could not boast a mink coat, but owned a “respectable Republican cloth coat.”
Tricia and Ed had been seen together for years. Ed had been one of her escorts at the International Debutant Ball in 1964. And even after Nixon had won the presidency, Tricia would occasionally visit him on campus, the ubiquitous secret service painfully stirring up a cloud of dust and attention wherever she went. Actually, the two young people had much in common. Ed was described as “aloof and private.” Tricia, who often avoided White House events, was described by her popular younger sister, Julie, as “the Howard Hughes of the White House.”
A twenty-year-old Julie Nixon had married Dwight David Eisenhower II, grandson of the president, in a small, private ceremony in New York at the Marble Collegiate Presbyterian Church, the ceremony conducted by America’s preacher, bestselling author Rev. Norman Vincent Peale. The event had taken place on December 22, 1968, only weeks after Nixon had won the presidency. The alliance of two political dynasties, Nixon and Eisenhower, fascinated the nation. It was assumed that should older sister Tricia marry, the event would reflect her more understated tastes, as well.
Surprisingly, the very private Tricia chose a large White House wedding with a guest list of four hundred. First Lady Pat Nixon suggested having the event in the Rose Garden, but the date had been set for June 12, 1971. Almost immediately there were internal objections and concerns. Tricia and the First Lady were told that there were very good reasons why no wedding had ever taken place in the beautiful and spacious Rose Garden. The summer weather in Washington was unpredictable, with rain one day out of three. White House servants and some staffers, aware of the history of such events, were convinced that the strain of such odds would be unbearable. It would require the planning of two weddings, not one, for the backup event could not be any less glorious than the Rose Garden ceremony Tricia desired.
Priscilla Kidder of Boston, “the doyenne of bridal outfitting,” designed and made the dress as she had done for Luci Johnson and Julie Nixon. White House pastry chef Heinz Bender produced a three hundred fifty pound, cantilevered cake that was dismissed by some pompous food critics as a “lemony, sweetish nonentity.”
There was intermittent rain the morning of the wedding. The president asked for the latest Air Force weather report, learning that there would be a break in the clouds around four thirty.[i] Tricia was asked to give the go ahead or steer the guests to the East Room. She held to Plan A and the Rose Garden. Right on schedule, the sun obediently broke through the clouds, plastic coverings were removed from the chairs and Tricia Nixon’s Rose Garden wedding ceremony went forward as an unqualified triumph.
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