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Richard Nixon: The gushy, romantic side of 'Tricky Dick' (+video)

Richard Nixon's love letters to Patricia Ryan showed a romantic young man. The letters from 1938, reveal Nixon, the 37th US president, as idealistic, poetic.

By Gillian FlaccusAssociated Press / March 12, 2012

In this circa 1930's photo Richard Nixon is shown as a member of the Whittier College football squad in Whittier, Calif.

(AP Photo/File)

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Yorba Linda, Calif.

Long before Richard Nixon rose to power and fell from grace, he was just another man in love.

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Richard Nixon's romantic side is revealed in new exhibit at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum.

Decades before he became known to some as "Tricky Dick," Nixon was the one penning nicknames (sweet ones) to his future bride in gushy love notes that reveal a surprisingly soft and romantic side of the man taken down by Watergate.

Nixon shared the stage with Patricia Ryan in a community theater production and six of the dozens of letters they exchanged during their two-year courtship will be unveiled Friday at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum as part of an exhibit celebrating the 100th birthday of the woman Nixon playfully called his "Irish gypsy."

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In Nixon's letters, he recalls their first meeting in flowery prose, daydreams about their future together and waxes poetic about the first time his "dearest heart" agreed to take a drive with him.

"Every day and every night I want to see you and be with you. Yet I have no feeling of selfish ownership or jealousy," he writes in one undated letter. "Let's go for a long ride Sunday; let's go to the mountains weekends; let's read books in front of fires; most of all, let's really grow together and find the happiness we know is ours."

Eighteen years after his death, the correspondence offers a tiny window into a fiercely private side of Nixon that almost no one ever saw and represents a love letter of sorts to fans of the 37th U.S. president, who were infuriated when the National Archives took over the museum and overhauled it to include a detailed chronicle of Watergate.

"These letters are fabulous. It's a totally different person from the Watergate tapes that people know. President Nixon started out as an idealistic young man ready to conquer the world and with Pat Ryan he knew he could do it. There's a lot of hope, there's a lot of tenderness and it's very poetic," said Olivia Anastasiadis, supervisory museum curator.

"He loved her, he was absolutely enthralled by her and that's all he thought about."

The letters stand in stark contrast to the grim-faced leader forced to resign in 1974, disgraced.

Instead, Nixon comes across as an ardent and persistent suitor in the letters, which date from 1938 to just before the couple's marriage in June 1940.

The two met while auditioning for "The Dark Tower" in the Southern California town of Whittier and dated for two years until Nixon proposed to his sweetheart on the south Orange County cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean. He later delivered her engagement ring in a small basket overflowing with mayflowers. They were married in a small ceremony on June 21, 1940.

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