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GAIL WHITE Ohio's presidents: For some, fate follows fame



Published: Fri, February 15, 2002 @ 12:00 a.m.



As Presidents Day approaches, our thoughts turn to the great presidents of our country's past.

Ohio has had the auspicious honor of rearing seven of our country's leaders. Along with that honor, however, has come the tragic loss in office of four of those leaders.

Eight presidents have died in office. Four have been assassinated. Ohio's presidents comprise half of both those statistics.

William Henry Harrison: America's ninth, President William Henry Harrison, was the first Ohio-elected president (though he was actually born in Virginia.) He was also the first president to die in office.

Harrison rode a white horse to his inauguration. Although the weather was cold and stormy, he refused to wear a hat or coat.

This proved to be a fatal mistake. He caught a chill during his one hour and forty-five minute speech (one of the longest in history). The chill developed into pneumonia. Harrison died April 4, 1841, after serving only one month of his four-year term.

Interestingly, Harrison is the only president who studied to become a doctor.

29th president: James Abram Garfield was our country's 20th president. Garfield was the fourth president from Ohio. He was also the fourth president to die in office, the second to be assassinated.

Garfield, the first left-handed president, spent his early years teaching in public school and assisting his widowed mother. Elizabeth Ballou Garfield was the first mother of a president to live at the White House.

Garfield was shot July 2, 1881, at the Baltimore and Potomac Railway Depot in Washington D.C. Charles Julius Guiteau was the triggerman. Guiteau had hoped to be appointed United States consul at Paris. Disappointed at not being chosen, he took revenge.

Garfield served only 199 days of his term. He died Sept. 19, 1881. He was 49 years old.

Guiteau was hanged June 30, 1882.

Valley ties: Our 25th president, William McKinley, became the fifth president to die in office, the second from Ohio to be assassinated.

McKinley is the president with the most ties to the Valley. McKinley's mother was born outside Lisbon. McKinley was born in Niles. He lived in Poland for a time as a child and attended Poland Academy. He later taught school near Poland.

McKinley's wife, Ida Saxton McKinley, suffered from epilepsy. He was known for his affection and devotion to her.

It was during McKinley's second term that he was assassinated.

Leon Czolgosz, a factory worker, fired two shots from a gun hidden under a handkerchief at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York.

McKinley was shot Sept. 6, 1901. He died from his wounds eight days later.

Czolgosz was tried and convicted. He was electrocuted Oct. 29, 1901.

Newspaper publisher: Warren Gamaliel Harding was the seventh president from Ohio and the sixth to die in office, the fourth Ohioan to die in presidential office.

Harding was the first newspaper publisher elected to the presidency. In 1884, he and two other investors bought the Marion, Ohio, Star for $300.

He began his political career as county auditor of Marion.

The results of Harding's presidential election against James Cox, also of Ohio, were the first to be broadcast over the radio.

Harding was also the first president to ride to his inauguration in an automobile.

Yet, it was Harding's trip to Alaska, a first by a president, that proved fatal.

Two years and 151 days into his presidency, Harding died in San Francisco on the return trip from Alaska.

Grant, Hayes and Taft were Ohio's other famous presidential sons.

Who will be our eighth and what will be his (or her) fate?

gwhite@vindy.com




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