Edna Viola Amos Nice (1882-1955)
MSA SC 3520-2299
First Lady of Maryland, 1935-1939
Edna Viola Amos was born in Baltimore on April 14, 1882. She attended public schools and "The Girls' Latin School." Between 1901 and 1904 the family lived in Atlanta, Georgia; they moved back to Baltimore in 1904. On June 7, 1905, Edna married Harry W. Nice, to whom she had gotten engaged before the move to Atlanta. The couple had two children: Harry W. Nice, Jr., and William, who lived only one year.1
"You may be quite sure there will be plenty of social life with us in the Governor's Mansion; we've always been fond of company. We like informal entertaining," Mrs. Nice remarked in an interview with The Evening Capital shortly after assuming her role as First Lady of Maryland.2 Maryland once again had an official state hostess in Mrs. Nice; the state had been without one since the death of Governor Ritchie's mother several years before the end of his term.3 Mrs. Nice increased the number of formal occasions and receptions at Government House and the number of staff persons in the house along with them.4 She preferred to do her own daily shopping and was seen frequenting the Annapolis shops and grocery stores in the mornings.5 Although a cook who had been with the Nice household for 17 years accompanied the Nices to Annapolis, Mrs. Nice also enjoyed using the kitchen of the newly-remodeled governor's mansion to do her own cooking for herself, Governor Nice and Harry, Jr.6
Mrs. Nice had few hobbies, most of which centered around her home. "I love my flowers. I love my car. I love my home, and my husband most of all. I'm not a club woman. I don't play golf and I'm not fond of bridge. Frequently when my husband is busy with meetings at night I take in the movies," declared Mrs. Nice.7 Before Nice's election as governor, Mrs. Nice enjoyed driving her husband to work every day from their home in Mount Washington to his Baltimore law office.8 She and her husband enjoyed traveling, and she did all of the driving on their many trips around the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.9
Mrs. Nice spent much of her first two years as Maryland's First Lady supervising the renovation of Government House from a dilapidated mid-Victorian house into the Georgian structure that is seen today. Mrs. Nice took an active role in the project, planning the alterations in the interior along with her husband,10 supervising the removal of dead trees from the property, interviewing decorators and accepting bids on interior work,11 choosing color schemes and fabrics for draperies and the reupholstering of furniture,12 and seeing to the finishing touches.13 After the house was complete, Mrs. Nice planned and planted a garden for the grounds in which she grew phlox, Shasta daisies, lilies, and roses.14 She also added a fish pond and stocked it with goldfish, a diamond back terrapin, a turtle, and a frog.15
A highlight of Mrs. Nice's term as First Lady was the visit of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to Government House for tea on a stop from his speaking tour through Maryland in the fall of 1938 on behalf of candidates for the U.S. congress. Although Roosevelt and Nice belonged to different political parties, President Roosevelt spent an hour or two with Governor and Mrs. Nice at Government House, during which the two politicians were reported to have had a friendly discussion on a first-name basis.16 This was not the first gathering of the Nices and Roosevelts, as Governor and Mrs. Nice had been guests of the Roosevelts at the White House shortly after Nice assumed office in January 193517 and had lunched on the presidential yacht Sequoia when President and Mrs. Roosevelt had come to Annapolis that spring to watch the Navy and Harvard rowing races on the Severn River.18
One of Mrs. Nice's fondest memories was said to have been a dinner party
given by friends several years preceding the start of her husband's governorship
during which he paid her the following tribute:
"For nearly twenty years it has been my pleasing and wholesome privilege to have had, as the companion of my heart and soul, one, whose purity of mind and simplicity of love and affection has ever rendered my anticipation sublime. To me, twenty-five years ago, she appeared like a young rapt saint, exuding the faint and intoxicating perfume of pure womanliness; her beauty broke on me like some rare flower; her glory was the glory of the lily; her loveliness was the loveliness of the full blown rose, which so flushed her brow that it radiated the refulgent rays of womanly virtue, unimpeachable character and a heart of gold.
"The years have vanished like snow when comes the thaw. Like the disappearing May snow drifts they have sunk into the past, and have become as shadowy faces, which we see in our dreams, and which pass as petals upon a swift moving stream. All of these virtues she has retained to an emphasized and marked degree. Her caresses, as then, are as soft as the down of the turtle dove; her love still falls about, and on me, like a sweet rain; something divine seems to cling around her like a sweet, subtle vapor which steals lingering on the placid bosom of a beautiful lake. Her loyal, loving presence has ever been my beacon; guiding and strengthening me in the dark hours of sorrow, filling me with joy and happiness in my moments of prosperity, ever, and always, my incentive to better things. The poverty of my language forbids an attempt at expression of my real love, gratitude, and respect. I can only say I love her; she is my heartease, my life with her has been sweeter than the honey in the honey-comb; her voice is like sweet music; her face like unto the angels; her eyes flashing with sunbeams, smiling a divine delight into my soul; and until death shall claim me as her very own, I pledge her unabated, undying love, fidelity and respect.
May the gathering glory of her life shine like the dawn; may her days be as long and as happy as the waves that dance on the sea; may her patient, sweet disposition ever fill my weary hours, shining upon me with the brilliance of the stars always unutterably bright, as they move like silver barques upon the azure sea of heaven, may it fall upon me like a ray of light from a heaven of peace.
"Surrounded by you, my friends, I welcome this opportunity to thus publicly pay tribute to My Love, and before presenting this intrinsic evidence of my affection, I ask you to join me in drinking to the health of her, whose holy love has like some vestal flame, burned into my soul and left its indelible impress upon my heart--to my wife."19
Notes on sources
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