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December 2014

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Dec. 18th, 2014

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Presidential wedding anniversary: the second Wilsons

On this date in 1915, recently widowed President Woodrow Wilson married widow Edith Bolling Galt in her Washington, DC, home. He was 58, she was 43.

Wilson's first wife, Ellen Axson, had died August 6, 1914, after 29 years of marriage. In March 1915, Wilson was introduced to Edith (whose first husband, Norman Galt, had died in 1908).

Following their March 1921 retirement from the White House, Edith took care of Woodrow (who suffered a stroke in 1919) until his death in February 1924. She lived another 37 years, attended President Kennedy's inauguration in 1961, and died later that year, specifically, on December 28, which would have been Woodrow's 105th birthday. The day she died, she was scheduled to be the guest of honor at the opening of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge near Washington.
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Cabinet: Donald Rumsfeld

Eight years ago today, Donald Rumsfeld resigned as the 21st Secretary of Defense (the oldest man to hold the job). He had served since the beginning of George W. Bush's term, January 2001. Previously, Rumsfeld had been the 13th (and youngest) Secretary of Defense, under Gerald Ford (1975-77).

Rumsfeld is one of four men to have had non-consecutive terms in the same Cabinet post. The other three were:

* John J. Crittenden, Attorney General #15 (March-September 1841) and #22 (July 1850-March 1853)
* Hugh McCulloch, Secretary of the Treasury #27 (March 1865-March 1869) and #36 (October 1884-March 1885)
* James G. Blaine, Secretary of State #28 (March-December 1881) and #31 (March 1889-June 1892)
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Cabinet: Ramsey Clark

Happy 87th birthday, Ramsey Clark.

In March 1967, Clark took office as the 66th Attorney General of the US, under President Lyndon Johnson. Clark served until the end of Johnson's term (January 1969). Clark's father, Tom C. Clark, was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court from 1949 to June 1967. There is some thought that Johnson appointed Ramsey in the expectation that Tom would resign his seat to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, and allow Johnson to appoint Thurgood Marshall to his seat (which he did). Ramsey Clark is one of three retired Johnson Cabinet Secretaries still living, all of whom left office with Johnson. They are the longest-retired Cabinet Secretaries.

Dec. 15th, 2014

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Vice President Walter Mondale

Eighteen years ago today, former Vice President Walter Mondale (1977-81) stepped down as the 24th US Ambassador to Japan. He'd served in the post since September 1993 (appointed by President Clinton). Mondale was the fourth former Vice President to serve as a US Ambassador, following George Dallas (to Britain), Hannibal Hamlin (Spain), and Charles Dawes (Great Britain).
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First Lady Julia Grant

On this date in 1873, Frederick Fayette Dent died at the age of 87. He was the father of First Lady Julia Dent Grant (1869-77), only the second person to live long enough to see his daughter become First Lady.

Dec. 14th, 2014

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President George Washington

On this date in 1799, George Washington became the first US President to die, and the only one to die in the 18th Century. The 67-year-old had been a land-owner, soldier in Virginia's colonial army, commander in chief of the army of the newly declared United States of America, and then unanimously chosen as the country's first President under the Constitution. He was an oddity among world leaders when, in 1797, he chose to leave office at the end of his second term, rather than hanging on to power for life. He retired to his Virginia plantation, and died less than three years later.
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First Lady Julia Grant

On this date in 1902, Julia Boggs Dent Grant died at the age of 76. She had been First Lady of the United States from 1869 to 1877, and had been a widow for 17 years (following the death of Ulysses Grant). She had four children, all of whom outlived her (the last, Jesse, died in 1934).

Julia Grant was the first First Lady to write a memoir, though it was unpublished during her lifetime. The Personal Memoirs of Julia Dent Grant (Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant) was only published in 1975.
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Vice President William R.D. King

On this date in 1819, William R.D. King took his seat as a member of the US Senate, representing Alabama. King would remain a member of the Senate until 1844, when he took a two-year appointment as Minister to France. Upon returning to the States, he was sent back to the Senate in 1848, and elected Vice President in 1852. King is unique for having been the only national office holder to take the oath of office on foreign soil (he was sworn in as Vice President while in Cuba), and for never having been in the national capital during his tenure (he was terminally ill, in Cuba attempting to recover, and then returned home to Alabama in April 1853, where he died). Prior to his arrival in the Senate, King had been a member of the House of Representatives for five years.
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Cabinet: John Breckinridge

On this date in 1806, 5th Attorney General John Breckinridge died in office, of tuberculosis. He had been Attorney General since late in 1805, and his death came two weeks after his 46th birthday. Breckinridge had been a Senator representing Kentucky since 1801, and became the first Cabinet Secretary from west of the Allegheny Mountains. He was the second of 22 Cabinet Secretaries to die in office.

His grandson, John C., would later be the 14th Vice President (1857-61), and his great-great-grandson, John B. served in the House of Representatives from 1973 to 1979.

Dec. 13th, 2014

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First Lady Mary Lincoln

On this date in 1818, in Lexington, Kentucky, Mary Ann Todd was born. Living in Springfield as a young adult, she was courted by both Stephen Douglas and his later political rival Abraham Lincoln, but it was the latter who won her heart. Mary was 23 when she married 33-year-old Abraham Lincoln in 1842. Mary had four sons between 1843 and 1853, only one of whom lived to adulthood. Mary was First Lady from 1861 to 1865, and the first woman whose President-husband was assassinated: she was sitting next to him at Ford's Theater when John Wilkes Booth shot him. Mary outlived Abraham by 17 years, dying in 1882.mar

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