Kennedy White House social secretary dead at 86

Nov 1, 2012, 8:45 PM

Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – Letitia Baldrige, the White House social secretary during the Kennedy administration who came to be regarded as an authority on etiquette, has died.

Baldrige, 86, died Monday in Bethesda, Md., friend Mary M. Mitchell confirmed Thursday.

At the White House, Baldrige also served as chief of staff for first lady Jacqueline Kennedy from 1961 to 1963. Baldrige, who was known as Tish, handled the first lady’s schedule, mail and served as the advance scout on trips. She was also responsible for the guest list and overall coordination of events. At one point, she was tasked with finding a French chef to oversee the White House kitchen.

Baldrige acknowledged that she and her team of aides made mistakes. One letter responding to a celibate priest congratulated him on the birth of his son. On the Kennedys’ 1962 visit to India, Baldrige nearly sent as a gift leather-framed photos, not recognizing that cows are sacred in India. And then there was the first large party she organized, two days into the administration, where she provided ashtrays for the guests and served liquor.

Both were unheard of, at least in the presence of reporters, and press called the party “debauched.”

“The president wasn’t happy,” she recalled in a memoir, “A Lady, First.”

But liquor continued to be served, and Kennedy later acknowledged he was wrong to give Baldrige a hard time.

“People have a good time in this house today,” she recalled the president saying later.

President Kennedy also gave Baldrige the nickname “Miss Push and Pull” because she told him where to go during events. Once, when he forgot a toast, she wrote him a note on the back of her place card, “You’re supposed to toast.” Kennedy then got up and said, “The social secretary has informed me that I am supposed to make a toast,” she remembered in a 1964 interview archived at the Kennedy presidential library in Boston.

Baldrige was born Feb. 9, 1926, in Miami Beach, Fla., the third of three children. Her father, H. Malcolm Baldrige, a lawyer, served one term as a Republican congressman from Nebraska in the early 1930s. Baldrige met the future first lady as a student a Miss Porter’s School in Connecticut, and they both also attended Vassar.

After college, Baldrige did graduate work at the University of Geneva. She worked as a social secretary at the American embassy in Paris and as an assistant to the U.S. ambassador in Rome. In 1956, she became the director of publicity and public relations for the jeweler Tiffany & Company.

After leaving the White House, she started her own marketing and public relations agency and was the author of more than 20 books. Her business partner, Alinda Lewris, said in an email that Baldrige’s most frequent advice was “Don’t take yourself too seriously.”

Baldrige acknowledged that as a member of the White House staff she lived a dream life.

“I don’t care what your politics are, I would wager that if you asked any American woman which administration would she have most liked to work for as social secretary, she would pick Jacqueline Kennedy’s White House as the place to be,” she wrote in her memoir.

A memorial Mass is planned for Nov. 9 at the Church of the Little Flower in Bethesda, Md.

___

Associated Press researcher Rhonda Shafner contributed to this report.

___

Follow Jessica Gresko at
http://twitter.com/jessicagresko

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

United States News

FILE - President Joe Biden drives a Cadillac Lyriq through the showroom during a tour at the Detroi...
Associated Press

Biden pledge to make federal fleet electric faces slow start

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden, a self-described “car guy,” often promises to lead by example by moving swiftly to convert the sprawling U.S. government fleet to zero-emission electric vehicles. But efforts have lagged in helping meet his ambitious climate goals by eliminating gas-powered vehicles from the federal fleet. Biden last year directed the U.S. […]
6 hours ago
FILE - Accused serial killer Billy Chemirmir looks back during his retrial on April 25, 2022, at Fr...
Associated Press

Man accused of killing 22 older women goes on trial again

DALLAS (AP) — After Mary Brooks was found dead on the floor of her Dallas-area condo, grocery bags from a shopping trip still on her countertop, authorities decided the 87-year-old had died of natural causes. Even after her family discovered jewelry was missing — including a coral necklace she loved and diamond rings — it […]
6 hours ago
Trump-Pence sign hangs on a building off of Main Street in Monongahela, Pa., on Sept. 23, 2022. The...
Associated Press

Trump: ‘King’ to some in Pennsylvania, but will it help GOP?

MONONGAHELA, Pa. (AP) — The Trump-Pence sign still hangs on the older building off Main Street in this historic town, a lasting vestige of the campaign fervor that roused voters, including many who still believe the falsehood that the former president didn’t lose in 2020 and hope he’ll run in 2024. The enthusiasm for Donald […]
6 hours ago
FILE - Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo attends a news conference on the arrest of Clark County Pu...
Associated Press

Nevada governor, Las Vegas sheriff face off in first debate

RENO, Nev. (AP) — Nevada Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak and his Republican challenger, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, are meeting for their only scheduled debate of this election year on Sunday, where they’ll face off after a botched inmate escape at the state Department of Corrections and air their long-simmering rivalry that has pitted the […]
6 hours ago
This Sept. 20, 2022 image shows a sign in Navajo on the fence surrounding the San Juan Generating S...
Associated Press

US shift away from coal hits tribal community in New Mexico

KIRTLAND, N.M. (AP) — The clamor of second graders breaking away from lessons to form lunch lines has gotten quieter in a rural New Mexico community, where families losing coal jobs have been forced to pack up and leave in search of work. At Judy Nelson Elementary, 1 in 4 students have left in an […]
6 hours ago
FILE - A Republican election challenger at right watches over election inspectors as they examine a...
Associated Press

Election officials brace for confrontational poll watchers

GOLDSBORO, N.C. (AP) — The situation with the poll watcher had gotten so bad that Anne Risku, the election director in North Carolina’s Wayne County, had to intervene via speakerphone. “You need to back off!” Risku recalled hollering after the woman wedged herself between a voter and the machine where the voter was trying to […]
6 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
Kennedy White House social secretary dead at 86