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July 2015

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Jul. 6th, 2015

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President George W. Bush

Happy 69th birthday, President George W. Bush.
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First Lady Nancy Reagan

Happy 94th birthday, former First Lady Nancy Reagan.

She is currently third on the list of longest-lived First Ladies, and will pass Lady Bird Johnson on January 23, 2016.
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Supreme Court: John Marshall

On this date in 1835, three months shy of his 80th birthday, third Chief Justice John Marshall died in office, having served 34 years 152 days (John Adams appointed him on February 4, 1801). His is the longest tenure of any Chief Justice (only three Associate Justices served longer), and his term on the Supreme Court is credited with saving that body from becoming a vestigial organ of the government. Through strong rulings, he set the legal underpinnings of much of our government, and made the Supreme Court the equal of the Executive and Legislative branches.
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Cabinet: Robert Strange McNamara

On this date in 2009, Robert Strange McNamara died one month after his 93rd birthday. McNamara had been the 8th Secretary of Defense (January 21, 1961-February 29, 1968), and then became the fifth president of the World Bank (April 1968-June 1981, his tenure there was the second-longest). McNamara's 41 years 128 days of retirement from the Cabinet ranks him 9th on that list.
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Cabinet: Franklin MacVeagh

On this date in 1934, Franklin MacVeagh died at the age of 96 years 226 days. Under President William Taft, MacVeagh at been the 45th Secretary of the Treasury (1909-13). MacVeagh was the third longest-lived of all Cabinet Secretaries. His four-years-older brother, Wayne, was the 36th Attorney General for most of 1881.

Jul. 5th, 2015

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Cabinet: Felix Gundy

On this date in 1838, Felix Gundy became the 13th Attorney General of the United States, when Martin Van Buren appointed him to the Cabinet. Born in northwestern Virginia in 1775, Gundy served several times in the Kentucky state legislature, and represented the state in the House of Representatives (1811-14). In 1829, he was elected to fill a vacancy in the Senate, and re-elected to his own term. He left the Senate to become Attorney General. He resigned from the Cabinet in December 1839, since he had been elected a few weeks earlier to fill another vacancy in the Senate. Questions of his eligibility to be elected to the Senate while serving in the Cabinet led to his resignation and re-election to the same seat on December 14, 1839. He died, in office, a year later.

Jul. 4th, 2015

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Independence Day birth and deaths

Today is the 4th of July 2015, the 239th anniversary of the dating of the Declaration of Independence (though most of the signatures were actually appended in August of 1776). The day has been marked by celebrations almost from the beginning; for example, Thomas Jefferson hosted parties on the day while serving as Minister to France.

In 1826, on the fiftieth anniversary of American Independence (and within hours of each other), 2nd President John Adams and 3rd President Thomas Jefferson died (at the ages of 90 and 83, respectively). In 1776, they had served on the Continental Congress committee charged with writing the Declaration of Independence. In 1796, they were opponents in the first contested Presidential election (Adams won, making Jefferson Vice President). Their relationship became increasingly strained as their views of what the government should become were at odds with each other. After Jefferson retired from the Presidency, however, they rekindled their friendship through a series of letters that persisted through the last decade and a half of their lives.

In 1831, five years to the day after the deaths of Adams and Jefferson, fifth President James Monroe died at the age of 73. Monroe was the fourth President to die (James Madison outlived him by five years), so for a time, three-quarters of all Presidents died on Independence Day. Monroe was the last President to die on Independence Day.

However, in 1891, former Vice President Hannibal Hamlin died on the 4th. The 81-year-old had been Abraham Lincoln's first Vice President (he was dropped from the ticket in 1864 to make room for southerner Andrew Johnson). Previously, Hamlin served four years in the House of Representatives, two months as Governor of Maine, and twelve years (in two separate terms) in the Senate. After his Vice Presidency, he served another 12 years in the Senate, and then capped his government career by serving as the US Minster to Spain for almost two years.

The fourth is not all about deaths, however. On this date in 1872, John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. (who would later drop his first name) was born in Plymouth Notch, Vermont. In the early morning hours of August 2, 1923, following the death of Warren Harding, Coolidge's father swore him into office as the 30th President of the United States (the only one to be born on Independence Day).

Jul. 3rd, 2015

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Supreme Court: Harlan Fiske Stone

On this date in 1941, Harlan Fiske Stone became the third Associate Justice to move into the center seat, as President Franklin Roosevelt elevated him to Chief Justice. Stone had been a member of the Supreme Court since Calvin Coolidge appointed him in May 1925, when he was 52 years old. Stone died in office in April 1946.
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Cabinet: Earl L. Butz

On this date in 1909, Earl L. Butz was born in Albion, Indiana. He received a bachelors and a doctorate in agricultural studies from Purdue University, and in the late 1940s, became vice president of the American Agricultural Economics Association.

In 1954, he was appointed Assistant Secretary of Agriculture by President Dwight Eisenhower. In 1957, he left to become Dean of Agriculture at Purdue.

In December 1971, President Richard Nixon appointed Butz the 18th Secretary of Agriculture. He resigned from the Cabinet in October 1976 after several verbal gaffes made him a political liability. After his retirement, he returned to Purdue, and served on several corporate boards.

Butz died in his sleep on February 2, 2008, aged 98 years 214 days. He is the longest-lived Cabinet Secretary. (The oldest living Cabinet Secretary is 4th Secretary of Transportation William Thaddeus Coleman Jr., who served from March 1975 to January 1977; he'll break Butz's longevity record on February 6, 2019.)

Jul. 2nd, 2015

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President James Garfield

On this date in 1881, at the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad station in Washington, DC, Charles J. Guiteau shot President James A. Garfield at point-blank range. Guiteau was arrested on his way out of the station. Garfield, the second President to be assassinated, did not die immediately, but lingered for two months. To aid in his treatment, Alexander Graham Bell invented a working metal detector, and a Navy engineer invented a working air conditioner. Garfield died in September, after 199 days in office (his is the second-shortest tenure in office, after William Henry Harrison). In October, Guiteau was indicted for assassinating the President. He was tried, convicted, and executed by hanging in 1882.

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