Friday, January 15, 2021

Andy Young: Your one-stop place for presidential trivia

By Andy Young

Special to The Windham Eagle

Seventy-eight-year-old Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. will become the oldest man in United States history to be inaugurated as president for the first time when he is sworn in next week.

The previous record holder was Biden’s immediate predecessor, who was 70 when he took office four years ago. The nation’s incoming chief executive will be the first ever to come from Delaware, although he was actually born in neighboring Pennsylvania.

He’ll also become just the second Roman Catholic commander-in-chief; John F. Kennedy was the first.

There’s no shortage of presidential trivia. Until now October was the undisputed champion when it comes to spawning American presidents. John Adams, Rutherford Hayes, Chester Arthur, Teddy Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and Jimmy Carter were all born sometime during the Gregorian Calendar’s tenth month.

But with Biden’s inauguration, November will move into a tie for the designation of top president-producer. Hopefully the soon-to-be-46th-POTUS will enjoy better health than any of the previous November-born presidents did.

None of that quintet won a second term, and only Franklin Pierce lived more than five years after his election. Zachary Taylor, James Garfield (an assassination victim), and Warren Harding each died before completing his term, and James Polk passed away barely three months after leaving office in 1849.

In addition to the dozen presidents who began their lives in October or November, five (Benjamin Harrison, Herbert Hoover, Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama) were born in August.

January (Millard Fillmore, William McKinley, Franklin Roosevelt, and Richard Nixon), February (George Washington, William Henry Harrison, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan), March (James Madison, Andrew Jackson, John Tyler, and Grover Cleveland), April (Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, James Buchanan, and Ulysses S. Grant), and July (John Quincy Adams, Calvin Coolidge, Gerald Ford, and George W. Bush) have all produced four different commanders-in-chief.

December spawned a trio of presidents (Martin Van Buren, Andrew Johnson, and Woodrow Wilson); May (Harry Truman and JFK) and June (George H.W. Bush and Mr. Biden’s immediate predecessor) can claim two each.

The only president born in September: William Howard Taft. However, if it’s any consolation to other September natives, the nation’s 27th chief executive reputedly weighed as much or more than three pint-sized James Madisons.

Historically, months beginning with the letter J have been perilous ones for American chief executives. Eighteen of the 38 no-longer-extant men who once resided at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (Washington never lived at the White House) permanently ceased breathing in July (John Adams, Jefferson, Monroe, Taylor, Van Buren, Andrew Johnson, and Grant), June (Madison, Jackson, Polk, Buchanan, Cleveland, and Reagan), or January (Tyler, Hayes, Teddy Roosevelt, Coolidge, and LBJ).

Eerily, all four of the presidents who succumbed in April did so without completing their terms in office: William Henry Harrison and FDR died in office, Lincoln was assassinated, and Nixon resigned in disgrace.

Another quartet of former chief executives (Fillmore, Benjamin Harrison, Taft, and Eisenhower) died in March. November (Arthur, JFK, and HW Bush) and December (Washington, Truman, and Ford) have each seen three presidential deaths. Two former presidents died in February (Wilson and J.Q. Adams) and October (Pierce and Hoover), while assassination ended the lives of two sitting chief executives in September (Garfield and McKinley). The only president who met his end in August was Harding. To date no ex-president has died in May, but as of January 20th there will be six current or former commanders-in-chief who’ve not yet committed themselves regarding when and where they will leave their earthly incarnations behind.

Here’s hoping, for everyone’s sake, that the 13th different president of my lifetime will be an honest, effective, and lucky one. <

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