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Rockefeller, Margaretta "Happy" (b. 1926)

Rockefeller, Margaretta "Happy" (b. 1926)

American socialite. Name variations: Marguerite. Born Margaretta Fitler Murphy in 1926; married Dr. James Murphy (divorced 1963); married Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller (1908–1979, governor of New York and vice-president of U.S.), in May 1963; children: (first marriage) four; (second marriage) Nelson Aldrich, Jr. (b. 1964); Mark Fitler Rockefeller (b. 1967). Nelson's first wife was Mary Todhunter Rockefeller.

In May 1963, Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller, who was in his second term as governor of New York and was considered a frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, married Margaretta "Happy" Murphy. She had been divorced five weeks previously, and as a condition of her divorce gave up custody of her four young children. Nelson Rockefeller's standings in the polls took a nosedive; there had been little public mention of his own divorce from Mary Tod-hunter Rockefeller the previous year, but his remarriage caused a furor. The ensuing Republican primary campaign, which pitted Nelson Rockefeller against Barry Goldwater, was hard-fought and nasty, and it is generally believed that public reaction to Nelson's marriage to Happy, and the skillful fanning of such emotions by hard-line Republicans, lost Nelson the nomination and delivered control of the Republican Party from the "Eastern liberals" to the deeply conservative faction that controls it to this day. After Goldwater was nominated at the national convention in 1964, Nelson Rockefeller was booed during his concession speech. Goldwater then took the podium to deliver his (in) famous acceptance speech, in which he told the crowd, "I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice … [and] moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue."

Happy and Nelson's first son had been born just a month earlier. They had a second son in 1967, and Happy served as first lady of New York while Nelson was reelected governor in 1966 and 1970. He ran for and lost the Republican presidential nomination again in 1968, against Richard Nixon, and chose not to run for a fifth term as governor in 1973. The following year, Happy was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent a radical mastectomy, and used her position as a public figure to advocate for early breast-cancer detection. Later that year, Nixon resigned from the presidency in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal, and Gerald Ford, as the new president, named Nelson Rockefeller vice-president. He and Happy lived in Washington for the remainder of Ford's term, which ended in January 1977. Happy Rockefeller continued to live in New York City after Nelson's death from a heart attack in 1979, and in 1991–92 served as an alternate representative to the UN General Assembly.

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