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Saturday, January 12, 2013

SA Ron Pontius

5 questions with Ron Pontius, Nixon Secret Service

San Clemente resident and retired Secret Service Agent, Ron Pontius worked the White House detail for more than 17 years. He agreed to answer five questions by email about his service to President Richard Nixon and his life in San Clemente:
Q. What was� President Nixon's legacy for San Clemente?
Article Tab: Retired Secret Service Agent Ron Pontius is reflected in the mirror of a curio cabinet containing memorabilia he has from his time protecting four U.S. Presidents, beginning with Kennedy and finishing with Ford.  Pontius lives in San Clemente.
Retired Secret Service Agent Ron Pontius is reflected in the mirror of a curio cabinet containing memorabilia he has from his time protecting four U.S. Presidents, beginning with Kennedy and finishing with Ford. Pontius lives in San Clemente.
A. Nixon put this small town on the map. In my travels with the RV in the USA, my wife Barbara or I would be asked "where are you from?" When we answered "San Clemente, Calif." they would say, "That's where President Nixon lives." Same thing on ocean cruises here and on European riverboat cruises.
Q. Did the president's resignation change the course of your career?
A. Short term, no. I stayed on the Presidential Protection Division with President Ford for the next two years. � Early 1976 headquarters asked me if I would be interested in being the Agent in Charge of the Nixon Protective Division.� I remembered� the ocean, golf course, tennis courts. Just great all around weather with a small-town atmosphere. If President Nixon had stayed in Washington, D.C. to the end of his term, I probably would have retired there or maybe� the Austin, Texas area.� I liked the dry air.
Q. What led you back to San Clemente, and what prompted you to stay?
A. I told the family how I liked the weather, ocean, small town. A great place to live and work.
Q. What was it like taking the president golfing?
We played the city course maybe twice. He preferred Shorecliffs. It was a shorter course and it would play faster than the Muni course or Camp Pendleton, and less disruptive of the golfers. He requested that we never make a request to pass through a group in front of him. When the lead agent arrived at the tee, the golfers knew that it was President Nixon and wanted to shake his hand or have him autograph a score card. It was our agents' preferred golf course.
Q. Tell us about President Nixon and the teams you coached.

On a drive to Palm Springs, he asked what I was doing in my spare time. When I told him that I was coaching a girls' soccer team and we were in first place, he said to let him know how the season went. Mrs. Nixon added that she would have a patio party if we won. We won� the San Clemente girls division, and Mrs. Nixon served the kids and parents who could make it� with punch and cookies on their patio. On another trip President Nixon asked me what I was going to do for an� encore. I told him that I was coaching a Bobby Sox softball team. He said that if I won again they would do the party again. We won the season at 10-1� and the president and Mrs. Nixon invited us to another patio party at the president's office. Mrs. Nixon and her friend Helene Drown� baked cookies for the team. The� two women were hostesses at the party, serving the parents and kids. Some of the kids even sat at President Nixon's desk for photos.

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