YORBA LINDA : Ex-Curator Sings Pat Nixon’s Praises


About 400 people from all over the Southland flocked to the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace on Thursday to get an intimate glimpse into the decorative powers of former First Lady Pat Nixon.

“She did more for the White House than any other First Lady, with the possible exception of Dolly Madison,” said lecturer Clement Conger, a curator in the White House for 16 years. “Mrs. Nixon has never received the publicity she deserved.”

Conger, 80, was appointed curator in 1970 by then-President Nixon and worked with Pat Nixon to renovate rooms and collect antique furniture and decorations for the White House.


Now retired, he regaled the audience with tales of heirloom acquisition in tones that another might use to relate a lion hunt--a painting discovered, traced and finally bid on, to be placed in the White House.

Conger, who has known First Ladies from Eleanor Roosevelt to Barbara Bush, said: “Mrs. Nixon was the most natural, the most unaffected.”

He wore a tie clip given to him by former President George Bush and cuff links that Bush gave him when he was vice president.

Many who came to the lecture, given two days after Pat Nixon’s 81st birthday, sung her praises.

“She was very gracious . . . a lovely lady,” said Kay Volgstadt, a retired secretary who came from La Habra with her friend Winnie Clements.

Clements, a Democrat, did not like Nixon when he was President, but now she holds no grudges about his politics or the Watergate scandal.


“All politicians are that way,” Clements said. “I’ve forgiven him.”

After the lecture, most people spent time among the exhibits, where images of Nixon flicker on televisions, his campaign buttons adorn the walls, and the text of the infamous Watergate tapes rolls across computer screens.

“The politics aside, it’s Americana,” said Goldie Greenberg, who led a group of 30 women from Beverly Hills Hadassah, a women’s Zionist organization, to the lecture and through the library exhibits.