Nancy Reagan was so unhappy over the first portrait Aaron Shikler painted of Ronald Reagan for hanging in the White House that after a friend passed Shikler word of her displeasure he decided to destroy the painting and start again from scratch. "I figured I couldn't correct anything more on it," Shikler said yesterday, confirming how he got the word during a White House dinner when a Reagan friend suggested a possible remedy that might please the then-First Lady. "I said I'd rather do the whole thing over, and that got back to Mrs. Reagan. She called me the next day and said, 'Are you serious?' I said, 'Let me start with a whole new concept,' " Shikler explained. He described their differences as a "matter of approach" and said the changes would have been "too technical" to effect. Shikler said Reagan was pleasant to be with and an easygoing subject. In trying to illuminate the man in all his facets, Shikler said that "you hope to show the history of the man in his face. It's very difficult to do." What Americans and future generations will see of Reagan when they visit the White House will be what the artist calls "a reasonably happy portrait, whatever other feelings there may be." One of Reagan's last sittings for the second portrait was in the Oval Office shortly before he moved out. The final sitting was in California in July. Shikler said he completed the portrait, commissioned by the White House Historical Association, in August. "They accepted it," he said. "I got paid for it. Whether they did somersaults or not over it, I don't know." As for her own official White House portrait, there are reports that Nancy Reagan liked it so much she may scoop herself by unveiling it in her forthcoming autobiography, "My Turn." Random House, which will publish the book later this month, could not be reached for comment yesterday. Originally, plans called for the portraits to be hung at the White House in late September but, according to curator Rex Scouten, arrangements were delayed when Reagan underwent surgery at Mayo Clinic for a head injury suffered in a fall from a horse this summer. Shikler said he's merely the artist and has no idea when the paintings will be hung. He wasn't invited when his portraits of President John F. Kennedy and his widow, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, were hung at the White House in February 1971, with President and Mrs. Nixon looking on. At Mrs. Onassis's request, that ceremony was private. "The portrait painter, you know," Shikler said, "is stuck somewhere in there among the couturier, the hairdresser and the masseuse." And here's a sampling of news notes from Woodcliff Lake, N.J. THE FINAL WORD: "In view of AT&T's decision to pursue profits by bringing this biased, vicious, inaccurate account to the airwaves, RN felt he had no alternative but to deprive the company of his business." -- Aide John H. Taylor's Oct. 4 memorandum to the media explaining the decision of his boss, Richard M. Nixon, to drop his long-distance carrier AT&T because it will sponsor the ABC-TV dramatization of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein's best-selling book, "The Final Days," on Oct. 29. HOME SWEET HOME: "With construction at the Yorba Linda {Calif.}site at the halfway point, Republican National Chairman Lee Atwater appeared there at a fund-raiser and predicted that history will remember RN as 'a great President.' " -- Continuation of Taylor's Oct. 4 memorandum, about GOP's blessing of the Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace site. GOLDEN OLDIES: "The Nixon family will be present in Yorba Linda on Thursday, June 21st, to cut the ribbon on opening day -- the Golden wedding anniversary of President Nixon and his First Lady. That evening, the Library and Birthplace Foundation will honor them at 'the party of the Century' at the Century Plaza in Los Angeles. "MARK YOUR CALENDARS!" -- Taylor's announcement of the 1990 Grand Opening of Nixonland. Barbara Bush picked up her fourth honorary degree of the year Friday when Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta gave her a doctorate of humane letters. The First Lady was keynote speaker at the fall convocation, which kicked off a weekend of festivities surrounding the inauguration of James Goodman as college president. Goodman succeeds Morehouse medical school founder Louis Sullivan, who resigned earlier this year when President Bush named him secretary of Health and Human Services. Mrs. Bush served on Morehouse's board of directors from 1983 until early this year. She resigned when Bush became president and she nominated as her successor longtime friend Sarah Farish, whose husband, Kentucky horse breeder Will Farish, oversees President Bush's blind trust. Smith College in Northampton, Mass., Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C., and Boston University in Boston, Mass., also conferred honorary degrees on Mrs. Bush this year. There will be a letter from Barbara Bush awaiting the Association of Junior Leagues tomorrow in Philadelphia, commending its selection by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as co-recipient of its highest honor, the Louise du Pont Crowninshield Award. Credited with devoting millions of voluntary hours to historic preservation projects, the Junior Leagues will share the spotlight with Frederick L. Rath Jr., of Cooperstown, N.Y., a lifelong historic preservationist and the trust's first director. "It is particularly worth noting that Junior League members have focused on preservation concerns while continuing to become ever more involved in reaching out to those in immediate need for assistance in their daily lives," wrote Mrs. Bush, herself a League volunteer years ago in Midland, Tex., where she once set up and manned a thrift shop. Among other concerns at its 43rd national conference, the National Trust is focusing on affordable housing for low- and moderate-income families, with a keynote address scheduled by C. Austin Fitts, the new assistant secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Being honored at a reception hosted by J. Jackson Walter, president, and Robert M. Bass, board chairman, will be Roger Kennedy, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, who is donating some of the proceeds from his new book, "Greek Revival America," to the National Trust.