March 8th, 2017

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Cabinet: Franklin MacVeagh

On this date in 1909, Franklin MacVeagh took his seat as the 45th Secretary of the Treasury. Born in November 1837 in Chester County, Pennsylvania, MacVeagh was the 7th oldest person to join the Cabinet, and the third-oldest first-time appointee to the Cabinet. He served the entirety of William Howard Taft's term of office, and died in 1934 at the age of 96.

His brother, Wayne, had been Attorney General for nine months in 1881.
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Supreme Court: Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.

On this date in 1841, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Junior, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He was wounded during the Civil War, and after the war, worked as a lawyer and law professor in Boston. In 1882, he was appointed to the Massachusetts Supreme Court. In August 1902, Theodore Roosevelt appointed Holmes to the Supreme Court, in a recess appointment which was formalized in December. Holmes served on the Court until January 12, 1932, when he retired due to his age. Nevertheless, he survived another three years, dying two days before his 94th birthday, in 1935.

At the time of his retirement from the Court, Holmes was the oldest Justice to serve on the Court. John Paul Stevens beat Holmes' record, retiring from the court two months after his 90th birthday in 2010.
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First Lady Hannah Van Buren

On this date in 1783, Hannah Hoes was born in upstate New York. Two weeks before her 24th birthday, she married Martin Van Buren, and the couple (who were first cousins once removed) had four children. Sixteen days before their 12th anniversary, Hannah died of tuberculosis, and Martin never remarried. In 1832, he was elected Vice President, and in 1836, President. He was one of the few widower Presidents who was unmarried during his time in office: he never remarried.
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President/Supreme Court: William Howard Taft

On this date in 1930, William Howard Taft died. He had been the 10th Chief Justice of the United States since 1921, and resigned from the Court a month before his death. Previously, he had been the 27th President of the United States, from 1909 to 1913. He was the only person to serve as both President and as a member of the Supreme Court, and had actually turned down offers to sit on the Court several times earlier in his career. Once was while he was Governor General of the Philippines (1901-03): he had wanted the Supreme Court post, but couldn't leave his job in the middle. After leaving the Philippines, he was appointed the 42nd Secretary of War, and held that post until Theodore Roosevelt chose Taft as his successor as President. Taft also had the bad fortune to find himself running against Roosevelt in his bid for re-election; Taft won the nomination of the Republican Party, but TR split the Republican vote when he formed his own Bull Moose Party, and Democrat Woodrow Wilson won the election. Taft is one of the two Presidents buried in Arlington National Cemetery (the other is John Kennedy).
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President Millard Fillmore

On this date in 1874, 13th President Millard Fillmore died. He had been a retired President for 21 years at the time of his death, having succeeded to the Presidency in 1850 when Zachary Taylor died (Fillmore had been the 12th Vice President). Fillmore was the last of four Whig Presidents, in what was either a very successful or a cursed party: there were four Whig Presidents between 1841 and 1853. Every one of their winning Presidential candidates died in office, and none of their Vice Presidents who succeeded to the Presidency were elected to their own terms (Presidents William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, and Taylor). Fillmore was also one of the few former Presidents to try to make a come-back: he was nominated for the Presidency by the American (or "Know Nothing") Party in 1856 (he finished third in that election). Fillmore was also one of the few retired Presidents to get married. His first wife, Abigail, took ill at his successor's inaugural ceremonies, and died a month later. In 1858, he married Caroline McIntosh, who was herself a widow.