It Seems Like Yesterday

When I arrived at the White House several days before the June 21, 1971, wedding of Tricia Nixon and Edward Cox, Tricia and President Nixon were practicing “walking down the aisle” in the Rose Garden, where the ceremony was to take place. Famed designer Priscilla of Boston had arrived with Tricia’s elegant lace wedding gown and a sea-foam green bridesmaid dress for her sister, Julie, who was to be maid of honor.

I wanted to photograph the sisters in the Lincoln Bedroom as they said it was their favorite room (and I must say it is mine, too). I had heard tales of its being haunted—from President and Mrs. Lincoln’s account of receiving regular visits from their son, Willie, who died in the White House at age 11, to Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands, who, while sleeping there in 1942, heard a knock on the bedroom door and opened it to see Lincoln himself before promptly fainting. Even Sir Winston Churchill, while stepping out of a hot bath, is reported to have seen Lincoln by the fireplace—and greeted him accordingly!

I had photographed the 37th president and his family over the years and found them to be a most interesting first family. Mrs. Nixon had instilled in her daughters a sense of dignity and good manners that is rare today. I followed Nixon from the campaign trail through his presidency—at the White House and on trips to Russia and the Middle East. I can’t remember him ever saying no to an idea I had for a photograph. Surprisingly, I found him to be the most “presidential” of all the 12 presidents I have been fortunate enough to photograph. Even in darker times, he allowed me in at San Clemente shortly after leaving office. When I thanked him for the opportunity, he replied, “This isn’t the best of times, but you know, Harry, you must let professional people do their job.”