Advertisement

Art Callaham: Some more fun facts about our presidents

March 10, 2013|By ART CALLAHAM

Early after the first of this year, I wrote a column concerning interesting facts about our presidents, and I promised to write more. That column and this one — and possibly some future ones — are based on a book by Cormac O’Brien titled “Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents: What Your Teachers Never Told You About the Men of the White House.”

My wife, Ruth Anne, and I featured this book on our radio show, “It’s in the Book,” and received several encouraging comments. So, here are some more interesting facts about the men who have led this nation.

I left off in the previous column at the sixth president, John Quincy Adams.  Other than Andrew Jackson, the presidents who followed — up until Abraham Lincoln — were pretty bland. Sure, Martin Van Buren threw lavish parties and William Henry Harrison only lasted a little more than a month on the job. And Harrison’s replacement, John Tyler, might be the real “father of our country.” 

Tyler fathered 15 children — the last of whom was born when Tyler was 70 years old — with two wives. When Tyler married his second wife, his oldest child from his first wife was five years older than his bride. What does that make that child and all succeeding children in respect to the second wife? Are they their own aunts and uncles? 

Confused? I am also.

Consider this: Tyler was born during George Washington’s administration and his last surviving child died during the Truman administration, so the Tyler family spanned the administrations of 32 presidents.

James K. Polk’s hairstyle (referred to as a “mullet”) set the trend for many future rock bands. Zachary Taylor lasted in office longer than William Henry Harrison, but not much longer — about a year and some change.  Millard Fillmore (now there’s a name everyone remembers), although undistinguished as the president, was considered the “handsomest man you’ve ever seen” by Queen Victoria of England.

Franklin Pierce’s own party changed its campaign slogan to “Anybody But Pierce” when he ran for re-election. Sounds like a modern day tea party thing. Now, let me be nice about James Buchanan so as not to offend our nearby friends in Pennsylvania. According to O’Brien, Buchanan will be mostly remembered “for doing nothing while the nation unraveled.”

That brings us, if you’re counting, from No. 7 to No. 16, which is Abraham Lincoln. But before I write about “Honest Abe,” let me digress and tell a little about Andrew Jackson. Rumored to have been in nearly 100 duels, Jackson would “throw down” over almost anything that he believed besmirched his honor. Heroic military leader, outspoken states’ righter, womanizer, drunkard and rowdy bar-room fighter, Jackson excelled at each endeavor. Yet he is revered as one of the greatest presidents.

I can’t help but quote one of Jackson’s favorite sayings as a tribute to our current Democrat Party: “If you have a job in your department that can’t be done by a Democrat, then abolish the job.” Isn’t it a shame that Democrats today are not following the latter portion of their standard bearer’s advice?

Now back to Lincoln. There have been 43 men who served as president of the United States. Grover Cleveland served twice, in nonsuccessive terms, as the 22nd and the 24th president. Of those 43, 24 had middle names and 19, like Lincoln, did not. Harry Truman’s middle name was simply the letter S.

Aside from no middle name, much like Washington, there is so much to write about “The Great Emancipator.” Born into poverty in Kentucky, having only a single year of formal education, strong as the proverbial “ox,” insatiable reader and successful lawyer, until 1858 a virtual unknown politician, Lincoln stands at or near the top of his class as a U.S. president.  Perhaps to simply write that Lincoln saved our union as we know it today says it all. No other praise is needed.

Art Callaham is a community activist and president of the Washington County Free Library Board of Trustees.







 

Advertisement
The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|