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The Daily Dish Southern Charm

Patricia Altschul's Past Was Just as Charming as Her Present

The #SouthernCharm grand dame was focused on her career before starting a family.

By Laura Rosenfeld
Whitney’s Mom: A True Southern Belle

We want to be just like Patricia Altschul when we grow up. She lives in a gorgeous Charleston mansion, throws fabulous parties, and her daily dose of medicine is a martini. 

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Patricia's present is certainly enviable, but how did she get to live such a life? Long before she appeared on Southern Charm, the socialite's past was similar to some other classic TV shows. "I grew up in Richmond, Virginia and had a charmed childhood not unlike Leave it to Beaver or Happy Days," Patricia told The Daily Dish via email. "I loved to ride my bicycle, play tennis, swim, and go horseback riding."

Even as a kid, Patricia looked incredibly chic.

Her family was pretty picturesque too with a father who was a retired surgeon and diplomat and a mother who stayed at home. Patricia attended a private school in Richmond before heading off to a Quaker boarding high school from which she graduated in 1959.

Patricia showed off her smarts while attending George Washington University and graduated cum laude. She went on to grad school where she earned a double master's degree and quickly achieved the rank of assistant professor, all by the time she was 28 years old.

Though Patricia married her first husband when she was only 20 years old and still a college student, she said she "waited until I had solidified my career to have Whitney [Sudler-Smith]." But Patricia continued to juggle her career and motherhood after Whitney was born, teaching part-time for many years until she founded her own company advising private art collectors and museums of the acquisition of paintings and sculpture, she described to The Daily Dish. 

Whitney brought a lot of joy to Patricia's life, too. "Whitney was an adorable baby and child. He was happy, gregarious, had lots of friends, loved adventure, played with his G.I. Joe's and big wheel," she said.

Wasn't Whitney just the cutest baby?

And much like now, Whitney was always looking for his next big project. "He was always creative," Patricia explained. "He loved to paint, write, was an avid reader, learned to play the guitar himself but also enjoyed sports such as baseball and football." 

Patricia wouldn't divulge much about her "intensely private" first husband and Whitney's dad other than he "is a lovely man."

She would go on to marry Edward Stitt Fleming, a Washington, D.C. psychiatrist who founded the Psychiatric Institute of Washington and the Psychiatric Institutes of America in the late 1960s, according to his 1997 obituary in The Washington Post. He was also related to James Bond creator Ian Fleming.

Patricia then wed Arthur G. Altschul, a famous New York investment banker, art collector, and philanthropist in 1996. He was kind of a big deal in the country's art scene, serving as a member of the chairman's council of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a trustee of the Whitney Museum of American Art, and a member of the trustees' council of the National Gallery of Art, according to his New York Times obituaryThe two were married until his death in 2002. 

Patricia and Whitney had the cutest days at the beach, didn't they?

Patricia looks back on all of her husbands fondly today. "All my husbands were accomplished captains of industry and amazing human beings," she told The Daily Dish. "I never had a bad husband!" 

In addition to her high-profile spouses, Patricia has always run with a fabulous group of friends, including Al Pacino, Oscar de la Renta, Andre Leon Talley, and Hamish Bowles. "I have been very lucky in my life in that I have met many interesting and accomplished people. I won't be listing a lot of famous names, however, I will tell you that I do know one of our presidential candidates and will let you guess which one," she said when asked about the well-known members of her social circle over the years.


After all of these years, Patricia has learned many lessons along the way, which we know from all of the brilliant words of wisdom she dispenses on Southern Charm. However, there's one piece of advice Patricia received during her lifetime that stands out among the rest. "The best piece of advice that I was given was to have a viable working career that would stand me in good stead throughout my life," she said. "This was emphasized over and over by both my parents." 

It definitely looks like Patricia listened.

What does Patricia think about modern romance? Find out, below.

Patricia Altschul Weighs in on the World of Romance
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