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May 2016




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May. 6th, 2016

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The Five Vice Presidents Who Died the Youngest

From the forthcoming book Ranking the Vice Presidents:

1. Daniel D. Tompkins (1817-25). Born on June 21, 1774, he is also one of the five youngest Vice Presidents. He served two full terms under President James Madison, and died three months after leaving office, on June 11, 1825, aged 50 years, 355 days.

2. John C. Breckinridge (1857-61). Born on January 16, 1821, he was the youngest Vice President ever when he and President James Buchanan took office. He only lived 54 years, 121 days, dying on May 17, 1875.

3. Garret A. Hobart (1897-99). Born on June 3, 1844, Hobart was William McKinley's first Vice President. His death in office, on November 21, 1899, cleared the way for McKinley to choose a new running mate in the election of 1900. That new Vice President, Theodore Roosevelt, became the youngest President ever when McKinley was assassinated in 1901. Hobart lived 55 years, 171 days.

4. James S. Sherman (1909-12). Born on October 24, 1855, Sherman died in office on October 30, 1912. His death came one week before the election of 1912, in which he was a candidate for re-election. His death, however, probably didn't have a major effect on the election, because former President Theodore Roosevelt was running for re-election against Sherman's President William Howard Taft (who had been Roosevelt's chosen successor). Democrat Woodrow Wilson took advantage of the split in the Republican Party to handily win the three-way race. Taft (and the deceased Sherman) came in third. Sherman lived 57 years, 6 days.

5. Chester A. Arthur (1881). Born on October 5, 1830, Arthur was Vice President for about six months. His President, James Garfield, was shot in July 1881, and died of the wound in September, vaulting Arthur into the Presidency. Arthur served his term, was not nominated for another, and then died on November 18, 1886, aged 57 years, 44 days. He is also #5 on the list of Presidents who died the youngest.

The youngest of the currently living Vice Presidents (all of whom are ineligible for this list) is Al Gore (1993-2001) who was born March 31, 1948.

May. 5th, 2016

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The Longest Lived Presidential Children

From the forthcoming book Ranking the First Ladies:

Four of the 43 Presidents have lived at least 90 years, and four of the 49 Presidential wives have exceeded that mark, which is why it's surprising that, thus far, only five of the more than 160 Presidential children have lived so long.

1. Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth. Born February 12, 1884, she was the only child of Theodore Roosevelt's first wife, Alice, who died two days after her birth. A very public person herself, Alice married Ohio Representative Nicholas Longworth (who was later Speaker of the House) in the East Room of the White House in 1906. She died February 20, 1980, aged 96 years 8 days.

2. Helen Herron Taft Manning. Born August 1, 1891, she was the second of William Howard Taft's three children. She earned a doctorate in history from Yale, and was later dean of Bryn Mawr College. She died February 21, 1987, aged 95 years 204 days.

3. John Coolidge. Born September 7, 1906, he was Calvin Coolidge's first son. He was a railroad and printing executive, and his wife's father was governor of Connecticut. He died May 31, 2000, aged 93 years 266 days.

4. Francis Grover Cleveland. Born July 18, 1903, six years after his father left office for the second time, he was the youngest of the Cleveland children. He graduated from Harvard, and was an actor. He died on November 8, 1995, aged 92 years 113 days, more than 158 years after his father was born.

5. John Sheldon Doud Eisenhower. Born August 3, 1922, he was Dwight Eisenhower's only child to live to adulthood. He, too, graduated from West Point, retired from active duty in the Army as a lieutenant colonel, and from the Army Reserve as a general. He served as US Ambassador to Belgium from 1969 to 1971, and died on December 21, 2013, aged 91 years 140 days.

6. Pearl Tyler Ellis. Born June 20, 1860, more than fifteen years after her father, John Tyler, retired from the Presidency, and less than two years before his death, she was the last child of his second wife, Julia Gardiner. Pearl died more than 157 years after her father was born, on June 30, 1947, aged 87 years 10 days.

The oldest living Presidential child is Lyndon Johnson's elder daughter, Lynda Bird Johnson Robb, who was born March 19, 1944.

Only nine other Presidential children lived at least 85 years.

May. 4th, 2016

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Vice Presidential anniversary: the second Rockefellers

On this date in 1963, one month after her divorce from her first husband was finalized, Margaretta "Happy" Large Fitler Murphy married New York's Governor Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller (he had taken office in 1959). His first marriage had ended in 1962, after 32 years, and five children. Happy's first marriage had lasted only 13 years, but they had four children together.

About the time their marriages were breaking up, Happy resigned from Nelson's staff, and their ensuing, fairly rapid marriage raised eyebrows. Some members of the media opined that it cost Nelson his future political career. Happy and Nelson had two sons together, in 1964 and 1967, and he was twice more re-elected governor of New York. He resigned that position in December 1973, but in December 1974, he became the second person to be appointed Vice President under the terms of the 25th Amendment. Nelson left office in January 1977, and died two years later. Happy outlived him by 36 years, dying in May 2015.
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Cabinet: Otis R. Bowen

Three years ago today, Otis R. Bowen died at the age of 95 years 67 days. Born in Indiana on February 26, 1918, he was a physician, the governor of Indiana from 1973 to 1981, and the 16th Secretary of Health and Human Services (served December 1986 to January 1989). He is number five on the list of longest-lived Cabinet Secretaries.

May. 3rd, 2016

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Assassinations research, leaving out Lyndon

Doing some research on Presidential assassinations (I'm working on Lincoln at the moment), I came across this Wikipedia page: "List of United States presidential assassination attempts and plots". What caught my eye was a sentence at the top: "With the exception of Lyndon Johnson, every president's life since John F. Kennedy has been threatened with assassination." I know the line actually says something sad about the state of humanity, but at first glance, my brain turned it around, wondering how Johnson would feel to be so left out. Actually, the page only has entries for attempts on 18 of the 43 Presidents, so it's still not a "usual" occurrence, but still...
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May 3rd: a bad day for Cabinet Secretaries

At least three Cabinet Secretaries have died on May 3rd. They include:

51st Secretary of the Treasury William Hartman Woodin (served March 5-December 31, 1933, died May 3, 1934). One of 16 to die less than a year after leaving office.

3rd Secretary of War James McHenry (1796-1800) was born in Ireland on November 16, 1753. He died in Maryland on May 3, 1816. One of 24 foreign-born Secretaries.

3rd Secretary of Commerce & Labor Oscar S. Straus (1906-09) was born in Germany on December 23, 1850. He also served as US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire three separate times (1887-89, 1898-99, and 1909-10), and died in New York on May 3, 1926.

May. 2nd, 2016

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Supreme Court/Cabinet: James Francis Byrnes

On this date in 1879, James Francis Byrnes was born in Charleston, South Carolina. In 1941, Franklin Roosevelt appointed him an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court (he had previously served fourteen years in the House of Representatives, and ten in the Senate). Byrnes served on the Court only 15 months, before resigning upon Roosevelt's request to serve as director of Economic Stabilization (which was later known as War Mobilization) during World War II. Harry Truman appointed Byrnes the 49th Secretary of State (1945-47), and in 1950, Byrnes was elected the 104th Governor of South Carolina (he served 1951-55). Byrnes died on April 9, 1972, aged 92 years, 342 days. He was the third-longest-lived of all Supreme Court Justices (and the ninth oldest to be appointed to the Court).

May. 1st, 2016

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Presidential parents: Dwight Eisenhower

On this date in 1862, Elizabeth Ida Stover was born in Mount Sidney, Virginia. Like her most famous son, her first and middle names were later reversed, rendering her Ida Elizabeth. In September 1885, she married David Jacob Eisenhower (1863–1942), and the couple went on to have four sons: Edgar (1889-1971), Earl (1898-1968), David Dwight (1890-1969), and Milton (1899-1985). Their third son, David, was called Dwight to avoid confusion with his father, and later reversed the order of his names. In 1952, he was elected the 34th President of the United States.

Ida died in September 1946. She didn't live long enough to see her son elected President, but did see him promoted to a five-star general in December 1944, the third officer to earn that rank. Ida was born a Mennonite, and later joined the International Bible Students (which evolved into the modern-day Jehovah's Witnesses); she was a lifelong pacifist, and disagreed with Dwight's decision to attend West Point, but did not overrule him. In 1945, she was named Kansas Mother of the Year.

Apr. 30th, 2016

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Second Lady Jennie Hobart

On this date in 1849, Esther Jane "Jennie" Tuttle was born in Paterson, New Jersey. At the age of 20, she married young lawyer Garret Hobart, and had two children. Their younger child, daughter Fannie, died in 1895, and the following year, Garret was elected the 24th Vice President of the United States. As Second Lady, Jennie often filled in for First Lady Ida McKinley as White House Hostess because of Ida's epilepsy, but Jennie's time in Washington would be brief. Garret died in November 1899. Jennie remained close with Ida, and joined her in Buffalo when President McKinley was shot in 1901. Jennie survived Garret by 42 years, living her final years on her son's farm in New Jersey.
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Inauguration Day

On this date in 1789, George Washington finally arrived in New York City (then the national capital) and took the oath of office as the first President of the United States. Nine days earlier, John Adams had been sworn in as the first Vice President, marking the longest stretch of time in which we had a Vice President but no President (on the other hand, the longest stretch of a President with no Vice President was a month shy of four years, after William Henry Harrison died in office in 1841).

Washington was the only President inaugurated on April 30th. Inauguration day from the next election until 1936 was on March 4th. From 1936 on, it's been January 20th.

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