Nancy Reagan has just died, and one of the main complaints about her that has survived all these years was just casually mentioned by someone in the media—that she extravagantly spent a fortune of public funds to decorate the White House. Well, that’s just not true! And I am really angry that that rumor has survived all these 35 years.
I think it is way past the time to set the record straight. As it happens, I have been reading Ronald Reagan’s autobiography, Ronald Reagan, An American Life. I love it! And one of the things I clearly remember reading is how Nancy decorated and refurnished the White House “at no cost to the taxpayers.” She did it all from donations, which she worked hard to get.
Being a painting contractor myself—and I also get involved in decorating—I really appreciate all that Nancy Reagan did, especially that she thought to do it from donations instead of using our taxes (but since the White House is really ours, I would have no problem if she did use our taxes. I mean, good grief, taxes have been used for much more trivial, unimportant things). Well, I guess maybe she should have done more to stick up for herself, to protect her reputation. But I think she was more interested in doing the right thing for the country, no matter what people thought of her!!
I believe we have the truth of what happened from Ronald Reagan in his autobiography (on pages 243-244). I don’t think he would lie about it. Here are a few excerpts:
She saw to it that its floors were sanded and refinished for the first time in thirty years [since 1951]. For the first time in over fifty years [since 1930], its mahogany doors were stripped and refinished; new carpeting was laid; the walls were painted and some were covered with a lovely wallpaper.
As time went on, virtually every room in the White House felt the touch of Nancy’s good taste and her determination to make it the most beautiful house in America. She did it at no cost to the taxpayers.
Dipping into their memories, veteran staffers told her about pieces of fine furniture, mirrors, paintings, and so forth that had adorned the White House in years past and were gathering dust in nooks and crannies around Washington; Nancy went looking for them and brought the best back.
A classic example [of the media’s criticism of Nancy] was the new set of state china she ordered for the White House…Knowing that the White House needed it, Nancy accepted the gift of a new set of White House China with 4,372 pieces that cost about $200,000. But taxpayers didn’t pay a cent for it; it was purchased by the Knapp Foundation and donated to the White House.