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First ladies' social secretary Letitia Baldridge dies at 86

| Wednesday, Oct. 31, 2012, 5:56 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Letitia Baldrige, who was social secretary to first lady Jacqueline Kennedy and became known as a “doyenne of decorum” and chief arbiter of good manners in modern America, died Oct. 29 in Bethesda, Md. She was 86.

She had severe osteo-arthritis with cardiac complications, said Mary M. Mitchell, a collaborator of hers.

Baldrige worked as a consultant to first ladies Lady Bird Johnson, Patricia Nixon and Nancy Reagan.

The daughter of a Republican congressman from Nebraska, Baldrige began her career in the 1950s with the State Department.

She was sent to Europe, where under the formal title of social secretary, she was an adviser to David K.E. Bruce, the U.S. ambassador to France, and Clare Boothe Luce, the U.S. ambassador to Italy.

Before joining the Kennedy White House, Baldrige was the public relations director — and reportedly the first female executive — at Tiffany & Co., the world-renowned New York jewelers. She later founded and ran Letitia Baldrige Enterprises, a public relations and marketing firm, in Chicago, New York and Washington.

And since the late 1970s, she wrote more than a dozen volumes of memoirs and books on etiquette, notably her updated version of “The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette” (1978).

Baldrige left the White House in 1963. She returned to the White House within several months to help the first lady plan her husband's funeral.

Letitia Catherine Baldrige's father, Howard Malcolm Baldrige, served in the House of Representatives from 1931 to 1933. Her brother Malcolm Baldrige served as Commerce secretary during the Reagan administration

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