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June 2015




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Jun. 3rd, 2015

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Vice President Garret Hobart

On this date in 1844, Garret Augustus Hobart was born in Long Branch, New Jersey. After graduating from Rutgers, he worked for a time as a teacher and bank clerk, and then became a lawyer, earning his fortune as a corporate lawyer who was rarely in court.

In 1872, he won his first election, to the New Jersey General Assembly. He was also later elected to the state Senate, and at times was the leader of each of those bodies.

In 1896, Hobart was nominated for Vice President on William McKinley's ticket, and they took office in March 1897. As the 24th Vice President, however, Hobart's tenure was brief. He died in November 1899 of a heart ailment he'd been suffering since before taking office. His death, at the age of 55 years 171 days, makes him the third youngest Vice President to die.

Jun. 2nd, 2015

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First Lady Helen Taft

On this date in 1861, Helen Louise "Nellie" Herron was born in Cincinnati, Ohio. She graduated from the Cincinnati College of Music and taught school for a while. In 1879, she met William Howard Taft, and married him in June 1886. As his wife, Helen encouraged William's political career, even though he was more inclined to a judicial life. It is generally assumed that Helen and President Theodore Roosevelt combined their efforts to push William, then Secretary of War, into running for President in 1908 to succeed Roosevelt. In 1921, she became the only woman to be married to both a President and a Supreme Court Justice, when William was appointed Chief Justice. He retired from the Court in early 1930, and died a month later. She died in 1943, and was buried next to her President/Chief Justice-husband in Arlington.
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First Lady Martha Washington

On this date in 1731, before any other First Lady or President, Martha Dandridge was born in Virginia, the eldest of eight children (her youngest sister, Mary, was born in 1756). In May 1750, Martha married wealthy landowner Daniel Parke Custis, who was 20 years her senior, and they lived on his White House Plantation. They had four children (two of whom lived to adulthood), and he died in 1757, leaving her a wealthy, young widow.

In January 1759, Martha married George Washington (who was nearly a year younger than she). An independent woman and capable administrator, Martha was the perfect stay-at-home partner for George while he served in the Revolutionary War and the Constitutional Convention. In 1789, she became the first First Lady of the United States (although the term wasn't coined until well after her death). She died in 1802, three years after her second husband.
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Presidential wedding anniversary: the Clevelands

On this date in 1886, Frances Folsom became the youngest First Lady in US history, when she married President Grover Cleveland. At the age of 21, she was 27 years younger than her new husband (he had been her father's law partner, and then cared for Frances and her mother after her father's death). Cleveland was the second President to marry while in office, and the only one to date to get married in the White House (their small, private wedding ceremony took place in the Blue Room after a regular work day for the President). Their wedding license (on display at the Grover Cleveland Birthplace in New Jersey) is fascinating, and perhaps unique: the witnesses were all sitting Cabinet Secretaries.

Jun. 1st, 2015

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President James Buchanan

On this date in 1868, 15th President James Buchanan died at the age of 77. Born in April 1791, he is the only President to have been born in Pennsylvania. He was first elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for a two-year term in 1814, and then served in the House of Representatives from 1821 to 1831, when he retired. In 1832, Andrew Jackson appointed Buchanan Minister to Russia, where he served until 1834. In late 1834, he was appointed to a vacant Senate seat, and re-elected to the seat on his own. He served until 1845, when James Polk appointed him the 17th Secretary of State; Buchanan served the entire four years of Polk's Presidency. In 1853, Franklin Pierce appointed Buchanan Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Buchanan returned home in 1856 to run for the Presidency.

The Democratic Convention of 1860 did not nominate Buchanan for a second term. Instead, the convention split over the issue of slavery, nominating three different candidates, virtually assuring Abraham Lincoln's election.
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Vice President Thomas R. Marshall

On this date in 1925, former Vice President Thomas Riley Marshall died at the age of 71, four and a quarter years after leaving office. Born March 14, 1854, in North Manchester, Indiana, he served as governor of Indiana from 1909 to 1913, and in 1912, he was elected the 28th Vice President on Woodrow Wilson's ticket. He served two terms, but did not seek the Presidential nomination in 1920 (James Cox was nominated, with Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the #2 spot on the Democratic ticket; Republican Warren Harding won the election). After his Vice Presidency, Marshall returned to the practice of law, and chaired the Federal Coal Commission from 1922 to 1923.
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Supreme Court: John Marhsall Harlan

On this date in 1833, John Marshall Harlan was born in Kentucky. In 1853, he graduated from Transylvania University in Kentucky with a law degree. In 1877, Rutherford Hayes appointed Harlan an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Harlan was the first Supreme Court Justice to have earned a modern law degree (before him, lawyers learned their profession through apprenticeships with practicing lawyers). Harlan served until his death, on October 14, 1911.

In 1955, Dwight Eisenhower appointed John Marshall Harlan II, the former Justice's grandson, to the Court. The younger Harlan (born May 20, 1899) retired from the Court in September 1971, and died in December of that year. The Harlans are the only grandfather-grandson pair of Supreme Court Justices.

May. 31st, 2015

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Presidential children: Calvin Coolidge

On this date in 2000, John Coolidge died at the age of 93 years 266 days. Born on September 7, 1906, he was the elder son of President Calvin Coolidge. As an adult, John was a railroad and printing executive, and his wife's father was governor of Connecticut. Coolidge was the third longest-lived of all Presidential children, and the longest lived Presidential son.

May. 30th, 2015

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Beau Biden

Condolences to Vice President Joe Biden and the rest of his family on the death of his eldest son, Joseph Robinette "Beau" Biden III today (see this announcement from The Washington Post). Beau was born February 3, 1969, and was an attorney and a major in the Delaware Army National Guard. He served a year in Iraq, deploying weeks after his father was first elected Vice President. He was the Attorney General of Delaware from January 2007 until the beginning of this year. He is survived by his wife and their two children, as well as his father, step-mother, brother, and half-sister.
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Cabinet: Ezra Taft Benson

Eleven years ago today, Ezra Taft Benson died at the age of 94 years 229 days. Born on August 4, 1899, he was the 15th Secretary of Agriculture, serving the entirety of Dwight Eisenhower's term. Born and buried in Idaho, Benson is the sixth longest-lived Cabinet Secretary.

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