The Saintly Mother
She made you want to do what she wanted you to do.
— MARSHALL CLOUGH, JR., REMEMBERING HANNAH NIXON 1
HANNAH NIXON DIED IN 1967, a year before her son was elected president. At her funeral she was likened to "Hannah of the Old Testament, who dedicated her son to God before he was conceived." 2 Nixon, in his last speech as president, said, "Nobody will ever write a book, probably, about my mother. Well, I guess all of you would say this about your mother—my mother was a saint." 3 In 1964, when she was ill and feared to be dying, he visited her in the hospital. She was under heavy sedation, he said, but alert enough to hear him say, "Now, Mother, don't you give up." "Her eyes flashed, she sort of leaned up in the bed, and she said, 'Don't you give up.' " When telling this story, as president, Nixon concluded, "I didn't give up. If my mother hadn't said that, I might have given up. She didn't live to see what her advice did." 4
He emphasized her inner peace and determination never to despair, and credited his mother for what he described in himself as "peace at the center." It involved perspective and poise, he said. "Whatever storms are that may be roaring up or down," the "peace within" will see one "through all adversity." In his memoirs, in describing her death he wrote that she was "not pretty but she was beautiful, and she looked as beautiful in death as she had in life." 5
To his biographers Nixon emphasized Hannah Nixon's ineffable tenderness. "I have never known anyone," he said to Henry Spalding, "as patient or completely dedicated to the needs of others as my mother." 6 Jessamyn West describes her as "not a saint in the sense that she had had a great spiritual experience," but as "enormously thoughtful and loving." She recalls her winsome