A Little Presidential Trivia

On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama became the 43rd man to hold the office of President of the United States. The last two-and-a-quarter centuries have seen a wide array of vastly different presidents with vastly different legacies. Here's a little trivia about who has occupied the Oval Office and how they came and went.

At a certain age

When William McKinley was assassinated in 1901, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt took the oath of office just 43 days shy of his 43rd birthday, making him the youngest person to hold the office.

When President Ronald Reagan stepped down from the presidency on January 20, 1989, he was only 17 days away from his 78th birthday, making him the oldest president to date.

Presidential tragedy

Eight presidents have died while in office:

  • For a long time, it was commonly believed that William Henry Harrison caught pneumonia and died because he delivered a two-hour inauguration speech in the cold rain on March 4, 1841. In fact, the president didn't show signs of illness until more than three weeks after the inauguration, making a connection between the two unlikely. Nonetheless, Harrison died from pneumonia and pleurisy exactly one month after taking office, making his the shortest presidential term to date.
  • On July 9, 1850, 16 months into his presidential term, President Zachary Taylor died from acute gastroenteritis, a disease of the stomach and small intestine.
  • On April 15, 1865, a bullet from the gun of John Wilkes Booth made President Abraham Lincoln the first U.S. President to be assassinated.
  • James A. Garfield was shot by Charles J. Guiteau on July 2, 1881. He managed to stay alive until September 19, and might have survived if medical science had been more advanced. It's believed that the blood poisoning that eventually took his life was caused by the doctors inspecting and treating his gunshot wound and not by the bullet itself.
  • William McKinley, the last Civil War veteran to be elected to the presidency, was brought down on September 14, 1901, by a pistol shot fired by anarchist Leon Czolgosz.
  • Warren G. Harding, in 1923, became the first president to visit Alaska. Soon after that visit, he caught pneumonia, which eventually led to either a fatal heart attack or fatal stroke on August 2, 1923.
  • Only one man has served as president for more than two terms. During his fourth term, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, physically weakened by the stresses of the presidency and by a lifetime of compensating for his disability, suffered a massive cerebral hemorrhage on March 30, 1945.
  • On November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy, our first Roman Catholic president, was gunned down in Dallas, Texas, by (officially) Lee Harvey Oswald, though this is a point of contention for many conspiracists.

I quit!

On August 8, 1974, Richard Nixon, facing impeachment because of his role in the Watergate scandal, announced his resignation on radio and television, effective at noon the next day. On August 9, then, he became the only president ever to resign from office.

Nixon had been elected with Spiro Agnew as his vice presidential running mate. Agnew resigned his post in October of the preceding year after a bribery scandal from his years as governor of Maryland was made public. Nixon appointed House Minority Leader Gerald Ford to the post. After Nixon resigned, Ford became president. Because he didn't run for a second term, Ford is therefore the only president never to have been elected to the post.