Happy Rockefeller

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Happy Rockefeller
Happy Rockefeller 1973.JPG
Second Lady of the United States
In role
December 19, 1974 – January 20, 1977
Vice PresidentNelson Rockefeller
Preceded byBetty Ford (Aug. 1974)
Succeeded byJoan Mondale
First Lady of New York
In role
May 4, 1963 – December 18, 1973
GovernorNelson Rockefeller
Preceded byMary Rockefeller
Succeeded byKatherine Wilson
Personal details
Margaretta Large Fitler

(1926-06-09)June 9, 1926
Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, US
DiedMay 19, 2015(2015-05-19) (aged 88)
Pocantico Hills, New York, US
Spouse(s)James Murphy (m. 1945-1963, divorced)
Nelson Rockefeller (m. 1963-1979, his death)
ChildrenJames B. Murphy II
Margretta Harrison Murphy
Carol Slater Murphy
Malinda Fitler Murphy
Mark Rockefeller
Nelson Rockefeller, Jr.

Margaretta Large Fitler Murphy Rockefeller (June 9, 1926 – May 19, 2015) best known as Happy Rockefeller, was the widow of Nelson Rockefeller, who was the 41st Vice President of the United States and the Governor of New York. She was the Second Lady of the United States from 1974 to 1977. Before she was the Second Lady, she was the First Lady of New York from 1963 to 1973.

Life[change | change source]

Her mother was Margaretta Large Harrison and her father was William Wonderly Fitler, Jr., an heir to a cordage fortune. Rockefeller is known by her nickname, "Happy", given when she was a child. She is a great-great-granddaughter of Union general George G. Meade, the commander in the Battle of Gettysburg.

Marriages and family[change | change source]

She married Dr. James Slater Murphy, a virologist associated with Rockefeller Institute who was a close friend to Nelson Rockefeller on December 11, 1945, they divorced on April 1, 1963. They had the following four children, James B. Murphy II, Margaretta Harrison Murphy, Carol Slater Murphy, and Malinda Fitler Murphy, who married Francis Menotti, the adopted son of composer Gian Carlo Menotti.

At the home of Laurance S. Rockefeller in Pocantico Hills, New York, on May 4, 1963, a month after her divorce—which was granted for reasons of what The New York Times called "grievous mental anguish" and her former husband's lawyer called "irreconcilable differences"—she married Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. He had divorced his first wife, Mary Todhunter Clark, on March 16, 1962. Happy and Nelson Rockefeller had two sons: Nelson Rockefeller, Jr.[1] (born 1964) and Mark Rockefeller (born 1967). She previously had worked as a member of his office staff until her resignation in 1961.

Happy Murphy's involvement with Gov. Rockefeller was controversial at the time. As the British journalist Lady Jeanne Campbell wrote in the London Evening Standard, when the Murphy-Rockefeller involvement became a topic of media investigation after the announcement of Rockefeller's filing for divorce from his first wife and Happy Murphy's resignation from his staff, "Already people are comparing Happy Murphy to the Duchess of Windsor when she was plain Mrs. Simpson."[2] Echoing the party-wide concerns, an official of the Michigan Republican Party told The New York Times that the couple's potential marriage likely would cost Rockefeller the 1964 presidential nomination. "The rapidity of it all—he gets a divorce, she gets a divorce—and the indication of the break-up of two homes. Our country doesn't like broken homes."[3]

Philantrophy[change | change source]

In 1971, Rockefeller served as chairwoman of the board for the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. She was appointed as a public delegate to the United Nations by President George H. W. Bush in 1991.

Health and death[change | change source]

She was a breast cancer survivor who had suffered mastectomy in 1974, two weeks after Betty Ford underwent the same operation.[4] She died of a short-illness at the age of 88.[5]

Related pages[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Nelson A. Rockefeller - SourceWatch". Retrieved 20 August 2016.
  2. Nan C. Robertson, "Nickname 'Happy' Well-Fitted to Cheerful Mrs. Rockefeller", The New York Times, 5 May 1963, p. 72
  3. "Many in G.O.P. Say Marriage Will Hurt Rockefeller in 1964", The New York Times, 3 May 1963, p. 17.
  4. "Breast Cancer: Fears and Facts", Time magazine, 4 November 1974
  5. "Happy Rockefeller, 88, Dies; Marriage to Governor Scandalized Voters". The New York Times. 20 May 2015. Retrieved 20 August 2016.