March 6th, 2017

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Supreme Court: Gabriel Duvall

On this date in 1844, Gabriel Duvall died. Born on December 6, 1752, James Madison appointed him an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court two weeks before his 59th birthday, in 1811 (he had previously represented Maryland in the House of Representatives from 1794 to 1796). Duvall retired in 1835, and is the fifth longest-lived of all Supreme Court Justices (91 years, 274 days).
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Cabinet: James Wilson

March 6th may be the second most popular day for early Cabinet Secretaries to start and finish their terms. Among those taking office on March 6th was James Wilson, the 4th Secretary of Agriculture. William McKinley appointed Scottish-born Wilson when he took office in 1897. Theodore Roosevelt kept Wilson on following McKinley's assassination. And when William Howard Taft was elected to succeed Roosevelt, Wilson stayed on in the new Cabinet. He only left his post when the Presidency changed parties following the election of 1912, and Woodrow Wilson took over. James Wilson served 15 years 364 days as Secretary of Agriculture, by far the longest tenure of any Cabinet Secretary.
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First Lady Nancy Reagan

Former First Lady Nancy Reagan (1981-89) died a year ago today, of congestive heart failure. She was buried next to her husband at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

Born Anne Frances Robbins in New York City on July 6, 1921, her parents separated before her birth. Her mother, Edith, was a touring actress, and Nancy lived with an aunt and uncle. In May 1929, Edith married Chicago neurosurgeon Loyal Davis, who adopted Nancy. In 1943, she graduated from Smith College, with a degree in drama, and was appearing on Broadway in 1946. She took the the stage name Nancy Davis when she moved to Hollywood. At MGM Studios, Nancy Davis made 11 films from 1949 until 1956, and appeared in several television series (her last was an appearance in Wagon Train in 1962). She met her future husband when he was President of the Screen Actors Guild, and she was almost blacklisted due to a case of mistaken identity. Her final film role was opposite him in Hellcats of the Navy.

Nancy and Ronald married on March 4, 1952 (it was his second marriage). In 1966, he was elected governor of California, and in 1980, he was elected the 40th President of the United States. As First Lady, she championed the cause of drug awareness and abstinence, summed up in the phrase "Just Say No." But her must enduring role was as her husband's partner and protector. Historian Douglas Brinkley said "They had a codependent marriage that became a codependent presidency. Ronald Reagan was the nice guy who liked to tell everybody how wonderful they were. She was the judge of character, and if she thought somebody didn't have her husband's interest in mind, she nixed them. You can't overestimate how important she was for the Reagan revolution and Reagan's eight years in the White House."

Nancy Reagan is survived by her two children with Ronald Reagan, Patti Davis and Ron Reagan (neither of whom has children). Ronald's daughter from his first marriage, Maureen, is deceased, but was the mother of one adopted daughter. Ronald's adopted son from his first marriage, Michael, has two children.

Nancy Reagan is ranked number 2 on the list of First Ladies who lived the longest (94 years, 243 days). She is number 3 on the list of oldest women to be First Lady (she was 67 years 198 days old when her husband retired from the Presidency). She is the only First Lady to have had two living parents when her husband became President (her mother died October 26, 1987; her adoptive father, Loyal Davis, died August 19, 1983). She is one of only eight women to serve as First Lady for eight full years.

She was a 14th cousin, seven times removed, of President Thomas Jefferson's wife, Martha.
She was a 7th cousin, twice removed, of First Lady Frances Cleveland.
She was a 7th cousin, three times removed, of First Lady Ellen Wilson.
She was an 8th cousin of First Lady Bess Truman.
She was a 21st cousin of First Lady Barbara Bush, and therefore a 21st cousin, once removed, of President George W. Bush.
She was a 6th cousin, three times removed, of President Franklin Roosevelt.
She was a 29th cousin, once removed, of President Barack Obama

Nancy's successor, Barbara Bush, is now the oldest living First Lady (she was born in June 1925). Nancy's predecessor, Rosalynn Carter, is still the senior living First Lady.