BOTHELL — Before his world changed in 1968, when his already famous brother won the White House, Edward Nixon had earned a geology degree and served in the U.S. Navy. He had been an ROTC instructor at the University of Washington and, in the mid-1960s, worked with the Apollo space project.
While in the Navy in Florida, he met Gay Lynne Woods, who became his wife of 57 years. After their move to rural Lynnwood, Gay Nixon taught math in the Edmonds School District for nearly 30 years.
Edward Calvert Nixon, a longtime Lynnwood resident, died Wednesday at a nursing facility in Bothell. He was 88.
Born May 3, 1930, in Whittier, California, Ed Nixon was the youngest of Frank and Hannah Nixon’s five sons. He was the last surviving brother of former President Richard Nixon, who resigned in 1974 as a result of the Watergate scandal and died in 1994.
Ed Nixon is survived by his daughters, Amelie “Amy” Peiffer and Elizabeth “Beth” Matheny, both with strong ties to the Puget Sound area. Matheny has lived in north Everett, and Peiffer in Kent. Gay Nixon, who retired from Lynnwood High School in 1995, died in 2014. She also had taught at Meadowdale Junior High and Woodway High School.
“Since our father passed away 25 years ago, Uncle Ed was our family’s rock,” said a statement Wednesday from Tricia Nixon Cox and Julie Nixon Eisenhower, the former president’s daughters and Ed Nixon’s nieces. “He was a source of guidance to our father, whose favorite little Eddie grew up into a renowned geologist with an infectious curiosity.”
Their statement was released by the Richard Nixon Foundation, a nonprofit based at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California. Ed Nixon was an original member of the foundation’s board.
Ed Nixon visited The Daily Herald a decade ago for an interview about his memoir, “The Nixons: A Family Portrait,” co-authored by Karen Olson. Taller than the 37th president, he still bore a striking resemblance to Richard Nixon in his posture and profile.
He shared memories of a Quaker upbringing. His parents ran a small grocery in Whittier during the Depression. One brother, Arthur, had died of tuberculosis before Ed was born. When another brother, Harold, died of the same disease, studious young Dick Nixon took on the role of eldest son.
Ed Nixon was 17 years younger than Richard Nixon, who had been a congressman and Dwight Eisenhower’s vice president before becoming president. During his Herald visit, at 78, Ed Nixon shared a happy childhood memory of a long driving trip.
“Dick had finished law school, and he ordered a new car — a black Oldsmobile coupe. I was almost 9,” he recalled in 2009. Together, they took a train to Chicago, then went to Michigan to pick up the car. With his big brother driving the new Olds, Ed Nixon said “I became a map reader” during the trip home on Route 66.
In the Navy, Ed Nixon was an aviator, a helicopter flight instructor, and at the UW an assistant professor of naval science, according to the foundation. Along with a bachelor’s degree in geology from Duke University, he earned a master’s in geological engineering from North Carolina State University.
Ed Nixon was president of Nixon World Enterprises, Inc., a consulting business. He traveled dozens of times to China after his brother’s historic trip there in 1972. His career was focused on geology and energy use.
“He will always be remembered as a true friend of the Chinese people,” Cui Tiankai, China’s ambassador to the United States, said about Ed Nixon in a letter to the foundation and the Nixon family.
Ed Nixon worked on his brother’s presidential campaigns and was co-chairman of the Nixon re-election committee in 1972, according to The Associated Press. Along with his brother, Donald Nixon, he was compelled to testify before the Senate Watergate Committee.
In his 2009 book and The Herald interview, he shared White House memories. “Regarding Watergate, we had no firsthand knowledge of the break-in or anything that followed,” he wrote in “The Nixons: A Family Portrait.”
There were better times. Ed Nixon and his wife attended White House state dinners. “Gay and I stayed in the rose-colored Queens’ Bedroom across the hall from the famous Lincoln Bedroom,” he wrote.
Along with teaching math, Gay Nixon played the accordion and performed in a Finnish folk music ensemble, Northwest Pelimannit. The group has appeared at the Taste of Edmonds.
After his wife died, Ed Nixon said in a statement released by the Richard Nixon Foundation: “We had wonderful years together, many on the campaign trail with my brother.”
Funeral plans have yet to be announced.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.