Hillary Clinton a friend of Ohio historical library

With widowers and bachelors among this country's former presidents, the title of first lady has been vacant at times.

This situation today, though, is unlike any other. Officials at the National First Ladies' Library could find themselves in an unusual predicament if Hillary Clinton is elected president.

"What do we do with Bill?" asked Pat Krider, executive director of the historic downtown museum.

She shrugs it off with a smile.

Don't expect to find one of his tuxedos displayed behind glass alongside evening gowns worn by Mamie Eisenhower and Lady Bird Johnson. Political correctness aside, it's the First Ladies' Library.

Inside the Market Avenue S sites that are the library -- the Saxton McKinley House and education and research center in the former City National Bank building -- they are quite proud of Hillary Clinton.

After all, the museum's mission is to educate about first ladies past and present. Clinton is the first of that group elected to public office -- as a senator from New York. Now, she's a Democratic candidate for the job that belonged to her husband for eight years.

"It says volumes about the role of first ladies," Krider said. "They're not in the background anymore. We think about how historically significant it would be for this organization."

For a moment, forget party politics.

"We're excited because it will inspire young women," said Mary Regula, founder of the First Ladies' Library and husband of Ralph Regula, in his 36th year as a Republican congressman. "She's as qualified as any of the men. I don't agree with all her policies, but she'd make a great president."

Regula doesn't hide her high regard for Clinton.

Maybe it's because Clinton has been a friend of the First Ladies' Library from the beginning, back in the mid-1990s when the library was only an idea, without money or a place to call home.

"She's a Democrat; Ralph is a Republican, but it didn't seem to matter," Regula said.

On Jan. 13, 1995, she met with then-first lady Hillary Clinton in the White House's Red Room. Regula spoke of a library dedicated to first ladies and her plans for bibliographies on each.

Clinton embraced the idea as long overdue and agreed to serve as the library's first honorary chairman. Without her endorsement, the library may have died, Regula said. With the sitting first lady on board, the rest fell in line: Lady Bird Johnson. Betty Ford. Rosalynn Carter. Nancy Reagan. Barbara Bush.

Clinton visited Canton, Ohio, on July 23, 1999, the same day she attended a memorial service in New York for John Kennedy Jr., who died in a plane crash a week before. She came to Stark County to announce funding and to tour the project, a work in progress at the time.

"She was always glad to help us," Regula said.

Clinton was the first visitor to the library's Web site -- -- as she searched her own bibliography. Even after elected senator, Clinton was a presenter during a First Ladies Salute First Women event.

Living first ladies were asked to supply a favorite photo and quote that were ultimately framed and hung in the hallways of the research and education center. Clinton's quote: "Human rights are women's rights ... and women's rights are human rights once and for all."

Krider wishes the library had more Clinton-era artifacts. Its collection is mostly albums of photos and a handful of thank-you letters to Mrs. Regula, in her role with the library, and as a friend.

A handwritten letter, dated Feb. 15, 1996, a couple weeks after Clinton testified before a grand jury in the federal Whitewater investigation:

Dear Mary,

Thank you for your kind note of encouragement during these last challenging weeks.

I deeply appreciate your personal support.

Please give my regards to Ralph.

God's Blessings to you and your family,


Reach Repository staff writer Tim Botos at (330) 580-8333 or e-mail