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The Prolific John Tyler

Posted by on February 17, 2014 at 6:10 PM

John Tyler (1790-1862) Being Presidents Day, I thought I would entertain you today with a pretty bizarre piece of Presidential trivia. If you ever want to win a bar bet, today’s blog entry will definitely help you. Not many people know the name John Tyler. John Tyler was America’s 10th President. During his lifetime he was known for three things. First, he was the first man to ascend to the Presidency because the death of the sitting President. William Henry Harrison, who at 68 was Americas oldest commander in chief until Ronald Reagan, decided to give a two hour inaugural speech in the cold rain of Washington DC without an overcoat on March 4, 1841. ( Incidently, inauguration day was held on March 4th instead of January 20th because of delays in transportation and slow news travel, it would not change until the twentieth century). Harrison almost immediately took sick and on April 4, 1841, exactly 30 days after taking office, he died. Tyler, who until then was largely known by the campaign slogan Tippecanoe and Tyler Too ( Harrison as an Indian fighter was the hero of the battle of Tippecanoe in 1811). Tyler’s presidency was marked by dissension in his cabinet. His detractors called him “His Accidency”. Powerful senators John C Calhoun of South Carolina,and Henry Clay of Kentucky thought that they had Tyler in their hip pocket, but were soon disillusioned. Tyler soon alienated them and demanded the full powers of the presidency. As he was the first in this situation, there was no precedent to fall back upon. During the first rocky year of his presidency, all of his cabinet resigned except Secretary of State Daniel Webster. Eventually, a few positives came out of the Tyler presidency including the annexation of Texas in 1845. Tyler was kicked out of the Whig party and did not have support for his own presidential run in the 1844 election. The second thing that John Tyler was known for was that he was the only former president to join the Confederate Congress in the early days of the Civil War. In 1861 Tyler was elected to represent Virginia in the Confederate Congress, but died on January 18, 1862 before the congress met. When he died, he became the only U.S. President whose death was not given recognition in Washington DC. Confederate President Jefferson Davis made sure that Tyler was given a proper state funeral in Richmond, Virginia, where he is also buried at Hollywood Cemetery. Tyler was not an advocate of war, and in fairness to him, he worked hard to try to find a peaceful means to end the battle of state rights versus the power of the federal constitution. But like Robert E Lee and many other Virginians, when succession occurred and war began, Tyler sided with his state rather than the nation he had served during the 1840‘s. Now for those of you still reading and waiting to find out how you are going to win that bar bet, here is the third trivial tidbit that John Tyler is known for. John Tyler who was born on March 29, 1790, has two living grandchildren. You read that right, grandchildren. Not great or great- great, but grandchildren. Go ahead wager a crisp Hamilton on it. You will mop up. Here’s how it happened. John Tyler is known as our most prolific president. Tyler married Letitia Christian in 1813. They had 8 children, 7 of whom survived to adulthood. After 1839, Letitia was an invalid and in 1842 she passed away at the age of 51. Only five months after his wife’s death, John Tyler overtly flirted with Julia Gardiner, a beautiful young woman of 22. After rebuffing his advances and marriage proposals, a tragic event in 1844 altered their relationship. On February 28, 1844, Julia Gardiner, her father David and the President, along with many dignitaries and cabinet members, attended a military demonstration aboard the USS Princeton. A malfunction of one of the large guns caused a massive explosion which killed the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Navy, and Julia’s father among others. At Tyler’s insistence they were laid in state at the White House and then Julia and her family escorted her fathers remains to East Hampton, New York for burial. Suddenly, priorities changed and by June 26, 1844 Julia and John eloped. Two days later they made their union public with a White House reception. John Tyler as I said, was quite prolific. He and Julia had 7 children, the last born in June 20, 1860 when John Tyler was 70 years old. But it John and Julia’s son Lyon Gardiner Tyler who was born on August 24, 1853 when his father was 63 years old who took up his fathers knack for fathering children late in life. Lyon Gardiner Tyler, son of the president married Anne Baker Tucker and fathered three children with her. She died in 1921 and Tyler married Sue Ruffin who bore him three children, two of whom Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr and Harrison Ruffin Tyler still survive. Lyon Jr, born in 1924 and Harrison born in 1928 are 89 and 85 respectively and Harrison still lives at Sherwood Forest, the Tyler family’s home since John Tyler purchased it in 1842. So there you have it. John Tyler fathers a child at 63, his son fathers one at 71 and another at 75 and with the longevity gene firmly in place, you have two presidential grandchildren alive and kicking 224 years after their grandfather was born. This definitely should win you a few dollars at the local watering hole. It makes this presidential holiday a possible money making experience. One sidenote that I found interesting about John Tyler our 10th President. For all the criticism of his term in office, in my research I found that both Tyler and both of his wives were very spiritual people. Tyler’s first act upon taking the office of President was declaring a day of fasting and prayer for the recently deceased William Henry Harrison. On addressing an audience in Nov 2013, Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr, explained that this legacy of Christian values superceded any event that occurred during his grandfathers time in office.

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