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    Richard Nixon Superb Autograph Letter Signed: Less than five months after his resignation, the former President writes a letter to Jack Benny's widow on the day the beloved entertainer died.

    Signed: "Richard Nixon", one page, 7.25" x 10.5". La Casa Pacifica, San Clemente, California, December 27, 1974. To Mary Benny. In full: "Dear Mary, I just learned on the news tonight that Jack had died with cancer. My great regret is that I did not even know he was ill - I would have never otherwise missed the chance to say a few words to him before the end. You can take comfort in the fact that he was a great star who made millions happy - and that he loved you very much - Sincerely."

    Jack Benny (1894-1974) was one of the great comedians and most beloved entertainers of the 20th century who excelled on radio, television, stage, and screen. Renowned for his flawless timing, Jack Benny had the ability to get laughs with a stare or, simply, a pregnant pause. He began playing the violin when he was six and became a good violinist. In fact, in vaudeville, he played the violin in the orchestra pit (1909-1914). Nevertheless, his so-called inept violin playing became one of his trademarks as did his age (he was always 39) and his frugality (he wasn't really cheap). In 1927, Jack married Mary Livingston (1905-1983) who starred with her husband on radio and television.

    On November 21, 1959, at a Washington black-tie ball, Vice President Richard Nixon (piano) and Jack Benny (violin) played a duet. On November 4, 1972, President Nixon ended his reelection campaign at a rally at Ontario International Airport, in the California district he had represented in Congress 25 years earlier. Jack Benny was one of the luminaries on the stage at the rally during which Nixon told the crowd, "This is the last time I will come to a rally as a candidate for my whole life. Thank you for making it the best rally of my whole life."

    Two years later, Jack Benny was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He chose to spend his final days at home and was visited by his close friends. He died on December 27, 1974. As soon as Richard Nixon heard the news, he wrote this letter to Jack Benny's widow. It is interesting to note that Jack Benny's funeral was attended by scores of notables from the fields of entertainment and politics. Richard Nixon, who had resigned the presidency five months earlier, was not among them. Jack Benny's will arranged for flowers to be delivered to his wife every day for the rest of her life. Mary Livingston died nine years later and was interred in the same crypt beside her husband.

    Included with this letter are three photographs of Richard Nixon at the piano and Jack Benny playing the violin at the 1959 Washington gala. ALsS of Richard Nixon are rare and this one, in extra fine condition, would make an exceptional addition to a presidential collection. From the Gary Grossman Collection.


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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    April, 2007
    16th-17th Monday-Tuesday
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