In a New York City church overflowing with red and white poinsettias, David Eisenhower, the grandson of former President Dwight Eisenhower, and Julie Nixon, the daughter of the newly elected president, Richard Nixon, were married 42 years ago today, uniting two of the country's most powerful political families.
The couple — 1968's celebrity sweethearts — were determined to keep the ceremony private. "Whether my father won or lost, we had no desire to be married in the White House," Julie Eisenhower told the AARP Bulletin in a joint telephone interview from the couple's home in Berwyn, Pa., near Philadelphia. "We were not interested in being minor celebrities or in the hoopla."
But there was one other matter of great concern. David Eisenhower, a lifelong sports fan, didn't want a repeat of what happened in 1966 when the broadcast of a baseball game was canceled to cover the wedding of President Lyndon Johnson's daughter Luci.
"Dave … was scarred for life," Julie said, laughing.
"No, no, no," David protested. "As a baseball fan, I felt disoriented enough on that Saturday to have it pass through my mind, 'Geez, I'm glad I'm not causing this.' So I applied the lessons." Both Eisenhowers have sought a life away from the limelight ever since. They declined opportunities to run for public office. "Whenever push came to shove, we always thought about the children," Julie Eisenhower said, referring to their three children, now adults. "Both of us having been brought up in such public families, we just really wanted something different for our children."
Life as authors
The couple have spent their lives writing, teaching and lecturing. Julie has written several books, including Pat Nixon: The Untold Story. David is director of the Institute for Public Service at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication. His first book about his grandfather, Eisenhower at War, 1943-1945, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist in 1987.
Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life With Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969, published in October, marks the first time they've worked together on a book. The book is an intimate insider's view of Ike and his wife, Mamie, as they retired to their farm in Gettysburg, Pa., where David's father, John, lived with his family. David was named after his grandfather (his full name is Dwight David Eisenhower II), and his grandfather named the presidential retreat Camp David after his grandson.
"The real story as I see it … is what grandparents can do," David said. "He gave me gifts, real gifts, the gift of assurance that I had this great ally in the world and the gift of his thoughtfulness in the form of letters."
The book, which David began researching in 1976 and then shelved, is enlivened with personal remembrances of his grandfather and with excerpts from Julie's journal. In an anecdote illustrating Eisenhower's legendary temper, David, who worked on the farm during the summers as a teenager, recalls being fired by his grandfather for taking an overly long lunch hour to play cards. Hours later, he wrote, Ike's Chrysler Imperial pulled up to David's front door to pick him up for a golf date. Not a word was spoken until the third hole. "Near the green, Granddad broke the silence. 'I allow all of my associates one mistake a year. You've had yours,'" David wrote. He was rehired that afternoon.
Later in the book, David recounts how, as his wedding grew closer, "Granddad offered me one hundred dollars if I would cut my mop of curly hair into a neat military style. Just before the wedding, I got a light trim. It wasn't enough for Granddad, and he didn't pay."