The King Who Was President and Other Presidential Tidbits
John Adams is dubbed as "the man who would be king," but he was not a king. He was a President. We did have an unelected King who served as President. I presume many of you already know who I am talking about.
Some of you may also know who was the first President born in the United States. You may even know who was the first President born on his birthday, or which President became the oldest living President twice.
If so, I hope you find something that you did not know before.
If you do not know who these Presidents are, then let us get on with some obscure Presidential trivia!
The King Who Was President
In October 1973, Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned his office as part of a plea deal. He was replaced by Gerald Ford, who became our 37th President when Richard Nixon resigned on August 9th, 1974. Ford is the only person to hold the office of President who was not elected as President or Vice President.
Gerald Ford was born Leslie King Jr., but was later adopted by his mother’s second husband and renamed.
As such, Gerald Ford was a King who served as an unelected President.
Born in the USA
The Constitution provides that the President must be 35 years old, have been a resident of the USA for 14 years, and be a natural born citizen of the United States. It did, out of necessity, make the third requirement pertain only to Presidents born after the Constitution was adopted in 1787.
As such, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and William Henry Harrison were eligible to be President despite not having been born in the United States. Each was born before 1787. Moreover, each was born before July 4, 1776, which is recognized as the date the United States of America came to be.
The distinction of the first President born in the United States belongs to Martin Van Buren, who was born in 1782. He served between Jackson and Harrison on the list cited above of Presidents born before 1776.
On February 22nd, 1832, the country celebrated the centennial of George Washington’s birth. It did this despite the fact that the date George Washington was born was February 11th, 1731.
John Adams birthday is October 30th even though the date he was born was October 19th. Thomas Jefferson’s birthday is April 13th despite being born on April 2nd. James Madison’s birthday is March 16th despite being born on March 5th.
The reason these Presidents weren’t born on the dates we know today as their birthdays was because the British empire adopted the Julian calendar in 1752. People went to bed on September 2nd, 1752, and awoke the next day on September 14th. The change added 11 days to all dates except those in the months of January and February, which also added one year.
The change from the Gregorian calendar to the Julian calendar makes James Monroe the first President born on his birthday.
Oldest Living President Times Two
When Grover Cleveland died in 1908, 49 year old Teddy Roosevelt became the oldest living President. He still held the office at that point, and there were no living ex-Presidents. He is the youngest person to be the oldest living President.
When Harry Truman died in December 1972, Lyndon Johnson became the oldest living President. He held the distinction for 27 days until his death in January 1973. That is the shortest span that someone was the oldest living President.
The standing President has been the oldest living President four times because all the ex-Presidents were dead. Besides Roosevelt, John Adams and Richard Nixon each was the only living President at some point while they were President. Andrew Jackson, being four months older than John Quincy Adams, became the oldest living President while serving when James Madison died in 1836. Obviously, George Washington was also the oldest living President when he was the only President, and remained the oldest living President until he died in December 1799.
Besides George Washington, three Presidents became the oldest living President upon their inauguration: William Howard Taft in 1909, Woodrow Wilson in 1913, and Ronald Reagan in 1981. Reagan remained the oldest living President until his death in June 2004. Likewise, Wilson remained the oldest living President until his death in February 1924.
When Wilson died, however, William Howard Taft became the oldest living President again. He is the only person to become the oldest living President twice.
The Long and the Short of It
On July 4th, 1826, John Adams died just hours after Thomas Jefferson died. That is the only time two Presidents died on the same day, and the few hours between Jefferson’s death and Adams’ death is the shortest span of time between two successive deaths of Presidents.
So, what was the longest span between successive deaths of two Presidents?
That would be the span between December 14th, 1799, when George Washington died, and July 4th, 1826, when Thomas Jefferson died.
The 4th of July: What a Prolific Date
Not only did both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams die on the 4th of July - exactly 50 years after the Declaration of Independence - James Monroe also died on that date in 1831.
We also had a President born on that date: Calvin Coolidge was born on July 4th, 1872.
Both Harry Truman and Gerald Ford died on December 26th, the latest date in the year that Presidents have died. Truman was buried on December 28th, 1972. Ford was buried on January 3rd, 2007.
That makes Gerald Ford the only President to die in one year and be buried in another.
Making a Short List Shorter
Only four standing Vice Presidents have been elected President: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren, and George H.W. Bush.
Each tried to get re-elected, but only Jefferson was rewarded with a second term as President.
The Justice of Injustice
William Howard Taft made Teddy Roosevelt so mad that Roosevelt unsuccessfully sought the Republican party nomination in 1912. When that failed, he formed the Progessive Party, also known as the Bull Moose Party. He got more votes than Taft, which is the last time the second place finisher in a presidential election was neither a Republican nor Democrat. Woodrow Wilson would win the election.
Warren Harding nominated Taft to the Supreme Court in 1921. He is the only President to also serve on the high court.
Along Those Same Lines
Some people think George W. Bush’s election in 2000 was the most controversial ever. However, it probably ranks third.
In the second most controversial election ever, John Quincy Adams worked a deal to make the third place finisher a cabinet official to garner enough electoral votes to secure the office over Andrew Jackson, despite Jackson winning the popular vote by a huge margin over Adams.
Jackson was not a man to anger. He would oust Adams four years later with an overwhelming majority of the votes.
Adams would go on to represent his district in Massachusetts in the House of Representatives, becoming the only ex-President to serve in the House. He would serve there the rest of his life, and even died in the Speaker’s Chambers of the House in 1848.
Another Congressional ex-President
One other ex-President also served in Congress. Andrew Johnson briefly served as a Senator from Tennessee from March 4th, 1875 until his death on July 31st, 1875.
Natural Born Citizen Controversies
Barack Obama is the first person born after 1787 to be elected President despite having dual citizenship. However, he is not the first person with such status to hold the office.
Chester A. Arthur’s father was a British subject, and gave him dual citizenship. The case regarding dual citizenship may have been resolved in 1880 except Chester Arthur destroyed evidence, and denied having dual citizenship.
A person born on American soil to two United States citizens is unquestionably a natural citizen. The Supreme Court has never clarified whether a child born on American soil to only one parent who is a US citizen is a natural citizen, though the precedent has now been set.
However, this made the election in 2008 interesting. Despite being born on American soil, Obama’s citizenship was questioned while he ran against John McCain, who was not born on American soil. McCain was born in the Canal Zone, Panama. Questions about whether McCain was a natural citizen, however, had already been answered in a case from 1968 when a candidate born in Mexico sought the Republican nomination for President.
Who was that person?
It was George Romney, father of Mitt Romney who ran against Obama in 2012.
It Depends on How it is Worded
William Henry Harrison served the shortest period of time as President. He died about a month after taking office.
James Garfield was President for about five-and-a-half months. That was the second shortest time a person served as President.
If, however, the question were asked "what Presidents died soonest after their inauguration," the answer changes.
William Henry Harrison remains number one having died 32 days after his inauguration. Abraham Lincoln died 43 days after his second inauguration. Franklin Roosevelt died 82 days after his fourth inauguration. William McKinley died 185 days after his second inauguration.
James Garfield ranks fifth on this list. He died 191 days after his inauguration.
Some other things I've written about: