The Marriage That United Two Presidents

Julie and David are not one of those "first name" celebrity couples we keep hearing about. And for that they're grateful. Still they both grew up with Presidential last names, and their family history is part of American History. They've got memories and pictures to prove it, as Mo Rocca shows you.


David Eisenhower is the grandson of President and Five-Star General Dwight Eisenhower.

It's normal to look up to your grandfather. But when your grandfather is a two-term president who led five million troops in the defeat of Hitler, that's a big deal.

"It is a huge deal. And I was aware of it at a very early age," David said.

Ask whether he was a little bit scared of him, he said: "Yeah … I mean, I wanted to be at my best around him. I felt this underlying esteem and affection."

Eisenhower, the supreme commander of the Allied forces in Europe in World War II who went on to serve eight years in the White House, went home, 50 years ago, with his wife Mamie, to their farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

It is a beautiful estate, in every direction.

But Ike was not the retiring type. In "Going Home to Glory," the younger Eisenhower describes his grandfather's post-presidential life, raising cattle, advising his White House successors, and mentoring Republican hopefuls, including his Vice President Richard Nixon.

Read an Excerpt From "Going Home to Glory"

David's co-author is his wife, Julie Nixon Eisenhower. That's right, you may remember Richard Nixon's daughter married Ike's grandson, David, uniting two very famous political names.

So they were like the Brad and Angelina of the Republican politicians' kids?

"Heaven forbid, I hope we weren't that overexposed," Julie said. "We certainly weren't seeking it, that's for sure."

"I was just interested in Julie, that was it," David said.

The two met as kids at Ike's second inaugural in 1957. Julie had had a sledding accident the day before.

"I careened up and so I went up into a tree and had a really big black eye," Julie recalls. "And the President leaned down - President Eisenhower - and he whispered, 'Now you look this way and they won't see your black eye.' And so when we were engaged later President Eisenhower gave me this framed picture of that moment. And he said, 'To Julie Nixon who even then seems to have unwittingly gained an admirer.'"

They started dating in college, when Mamie Eisenhower prodded David at Amherst to call on Julie seven miles down the road at Smith.

And this was the late 60s. The anti-war movement is at a fever pitch. Were they young conservatives at liberal colleges?

"Not that conservative," Julie said.

"I wouldn't call myself a conservative," echoed David.

Neither they nor their namesake presidents were hardline Republicans, they say.

"We might as well say what it is, as we're not running for office. We would never be elected today. Nixon was considered a progressive Republican," Julie said.

And Eisenhower governed, in his own words, as a "middle of the roader."

"He was a very strongly principled man who was a moderate," David said. "That's because he felt that American democracy required moderation."

In their book, published by Simon & Schuster (a CBS company), both authors insist the two men had a warm relationship.

"You've got two command personalities bumping along together. And what we always say is it's amazing they got along as well as they did," Julie said.

In the book, Julie wrote that her father's feelings towards David's grandfather bordered on hero worship.

"It was very much a father-son relationship, because there was that much of an age gap," Julie said. "He credited Eisenhower with allowing him to become a student of the world, because Eisenhower's an internationalist."

Eisenhower died in March of 1969. He would not be able to advise the newlyweds or newly elected President Nixon during the crisis that would engulf them all.

Did the Watergate years and the resignation make their relationship stronger?

"Long range I think it did," David said. "We had a strong relationship going into it.

"We survived, let's put it that way. I think it was a very difficult time, and we certainly survived it," Julie said. "My father thought he let the country down."

Eisenhower left office and left life as a highly admired figure. Nixon was not admired by much of the country. The couple said the two presidents' legacies did not create stress in the relationship.

"When you love someone, you care about them," Julie said. "If they have a disaster, you don't abandon them. So we had such a strong family that, yes, it was extremely difficult, but that's the last time that you would abandon someone is if they've had a disaster."

Married 41 years, David and Julie Eisenhower and their four kids are the heirs to two of the most famous figures of the 20th century. But their White House days are long in the past, and they're just fine with that.

"Thank God it's all over, too, and that we're not recognized anymore," Julie said. "It's a privilege to publish this book and tell this story. And for four weeks we might be recognized in the grocery store and then people might still ask us to spell our name, which happens all the time."


For more info:
"Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969" by David Eisenhower with Julie Nixon Eisenhower (Simon & Schuster)
Eisenhower Farm in Gettysburg, Pa.
Eisenhower Library
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