Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
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My in-depth historical essay weaving the bloody, final act of John Wilkes Booth with the evocative words of Shakespeare got a few dozen notes yesterday.

My throwaway sentence from earlier about how I want to kick people in the face for saying “signal boost” has over 200 notes and rising.

If anyone ever asks you what Tumblr is, that’s a pretty good way to describe it.

Jimmy Carter wasn’t just the first President in American History who was born in an hospital; he’s also the only President to ever report seeing a UFO.

In October 1969 — one year before he was elected Governor of Georgia — at a Lion’s Club meeting in Leary, Georgia, Carter and a group of people witnessed a silent object in the sky as bright as the moon that changed colors from white to blue to red and to white once again and came to within 900 yards of where he and the others were standing before disappearing.  In 1973, Carter filed a report about the sighting with the International UFO Bureau in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  You can access Carter’s UFO report here.

When Carter ran for President in 1976, the UFO sighting was asked about and Carter said, “I’ll never make fun of people who say they’ve seen unidentified objects in the sky.  If I become President, I’ll make every piece of information this country has about UFO sightings available to the public and the scientists.”  Of course, when Carter was elected President, he quickly backpedaled and said that he couldn’t disclose much of that information because of classified implications on national defense.

Today, Carter — a student of nuclear physics in the Navy — is still unsure of what he saw that day, but maintains that it wasn’t an alien spacecraft, noting that he called it a “UFO” simply because it was unidentifiable. 

134 plays

Jay-Z: Hola’ Hovito

You know, just wait a few days until the bloom is off that rose. This woman is being put into a position she is not even remotely prepared for. She hasn’t spent one day on the national level. Neither has her family. Let’s wait and see how she looks five days out.
George W. Bush, making a prediction to close aides about Sarah Palin, during the honeymoon period after John McCain named Palin as his Vice Presidential running mate, August 2008
Asker Anonymous Asks:
Do you have a photograph of this Major Butt
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Not personally. But he was a real person and Google is pretty handy when it comes that stuff.

With me it is exceptionally true that the Presidency is not a bed of roses.
James K. Polk, personal diary entry, September 4, 1847
Asker Anonymous Asks:
Could you describe the relationship between the famously-difficult Charles de Gaulle and the U.S. Presidents he encountered? And did any Presidents attend his funeral?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

There is actually a recently-released book by Douglas Boyd on that exact subject — De Gaulle: The Man Who Defied Six U.S. Presidents (The History Press) — that I’d point you to for an in-depth answer to your first question.

As for the second question, President Nixon attended de Gaulle’s funeral. The only other two Presidents alive at the time of de Gaulle’s death were 86-year-old Harry Truman and Lyndon Johnson, both of whom were in failing health and unable to make the trip to Paris for the funeral.

Hi, I'm working on a paper for U.S. foreign policy and chose to focus on "Probable cultural/experiential/personality issues on one senior-level U.S. FP decision-maker since 1900" as my topic. I leaning towards Bill Clinton. Can you please share some good sources about him focusing on my topic? There are other options like a case study on a crisis, but I am interested in studying a POTUS if you wanna throw out any others I might be able to write a good piece on. Thanks in advance!
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

I think that President Clinton is a strong choice. Here are some sources that I’d suggest:

PBS American Experience: Clinton
As I’ve noted on many occasions, the supplemental websites to PBS documentaries are incredibly loaded with source material and/or links to source material.

My Life by Bill Clinton

The Survivor: Bill Clinton In The White House by John F. Harris

A Complicated Man: The Life of Bill Clinton As Told By Those Who Know Him by Michael Takiff

First In His Class: A Biography of Bill Clinton by David Maraniss

The Natural: The Misunderstood Presidency of Bill Clinton by Joe Klein

The Presidency of Bill Clinton: The Legacy of a New Democratic and Foreign Policy by Mark White

And don’t hesitate to check out the oral histories and collections of the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and the William J. Clinton Presidential History Project at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center for Public Affairs.

Asker ultra-pop Asks:
Andrew Jackson served on the Tennessee Supreme Court (1798-1804) before his presidency, and Taft served as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court (1921-1930) after it. Other then these 2 have any other President's served in a high Judicial office?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Many Presidents have served in the judiciary, but not quite on the level of Jackson’s service on the Tennessee Supreme Court or Taft’s term as Chief Justice of the United States. Taft actually had a pretty solid judicial resume before joining the McKinley and Roosevelt Administrations.

Here’s a quick rundown on Presidents who had judicial experience:

•Martin Van Buren: First public office was as County Surrogate in Columbia County, New York (1808-1813).

•William Henry Harrison: Although General Harrison had a lengthy career in the military, diplomat, and as a territorial executive, the minor judicial office that he held at the time of his election as President is probably the least impressive position a President was elected from — Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas of Hamilton County, Ohio (1834-1840).

•Franklin Pierce: U.S. District Attorney in New Hampshire.

•James Buchanan: Not really a judicial position, but Buchanan is the only President in American History to have served as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee during his time in Congress.

•Abraham Lincoln: During his time as a lawyer riding the Eighth Circuit, Lincoln filled in as a judge for over 300 cases when the regular Eighth Circuit Court Judge, David Davis (whom Lincoln later appointed to the Supreme Court), was unable to preside.

•Andrew Johnson: As Military Governor of Tennessee during the Civil War (1862-1864), Johnson was not only the judge, jury, and executioner, but also the executive and legislature. For two years, Johnson was basically the dictator of Tennessee.

•Rutherford B. Hayes: Cincinnati City Solicitor (1858-1861).

•James Garfield: Never served as a judicial officer, but Garfield was the first person in American history whose initial courtroom appearance as a lawyer was before the Supreme Court (in Ex Parte Mulligan, 1866).

•Grover Cleveland: Assistant District Attorney of Erie County, New York (1863-1865); Also served as Sheriff of Erie County and Erie County’s public executioner (1871-1873)

•Benjamin Harrison: Served as Indianapolis City Attorney before the Civil War and was Indiana’s Supreme Court Reporter from 1861-1862 and again after returning home from the war; From 1897-1899, after his Presidency, Harrison represented Venezuela in a boundary dispute with British Guiana before the International Court of Arbitration; Appointed by President McKinley to the Permanent Court of Arbitration but died shortly afterward.

•William McKinley: Stark County, Ohio Prosecutor (1869-1871)

•Theodore Roosevelt: Not really judicial, but during his time in the Badlands following the death of his first wife, TR was Deputy Sheriff of Billings County in the Dakota Territory and was President of the New York City Police Board from 1895-1897.

•William Howard Taft: Served in many judicial positions prior to his Presidency. Taft was Assistant Prosecutor of Hamilton County, Ohio (1881-1882); Assistant Solicitor of Hamilton County, Ohio (1885-1887); Cincinnati Superior Court Judge (1887-1890); United States Solicitor General — the only President to ever serve in that position (1890-1892); United States Sixth Circuit Court Judge (1892-1900); As Governor-General of the Philippines (1901-1904), Taft implemented a judicial system that he largely designed; Taft during down his dream job, an appointment to the Supreme Court, on three different occasions — October 1902, January 1903, and January 1906 — before finally accepting President Harding’s nomination as Chief Justice in 1921.

•Calvin Coolidge: City Solicitor of Northampton, Massachusetts (1900-1902); Clerk of the Hampshire County, Massachusetts Court (1903)

•Harry S. Truman’s first elected position was as Judge of Jackson County, Missouri from 1922-1924. He was later Presiding Judge of Jackson County, Missouri from 1926-1934. Although these sound like judicial positions, they were not — Truman wasn’t a lawyer as was the most recent President without a college degree. Truman’s jobs as a Jackson County “Judge” were executive positions — much like a city manager or county executive.

That’s right…eleven. That’s how many replies and/or comments in my inbox I received from readers who mentioned something about how funny the name “Butt” or “Major Butt” sounds.

Quite frankly, I’d like to think that this blog is a bit more high-brow than that, but I’m a 34-year-old man who laughed at every mention of Archibald Butt, as well.

When the lists of Titanic victims were listed in the newspaper following the tragedy, I wonder if there were people in 1912 just as immature as we are who tearfully thumbed through the names before stopping, giggling, and saying, “Look, it says Butt!”.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Hi! Love the blog. I was wondering if you knew anything on Major Archibald Butt, Taft's military adviser. He's not exactly a president, but I think he was close to Taft.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Major Butt was a very fascinating figure. He was close to both President Taft and Theodore Roosevelt and served as a military aide to both Presidents and in a role that somewhat resembled the later role of White House Chief of Staff. In fact, Butt was basically caught in the middle between Roosevelt and Taft as they drifted apart and it began to be clear that they were about to face off against each other for the Presidency in 1912. Before the campaign between Taft and Roosevelt for the 1912 Republican nomination got underway, President Taft convinced Major Butt to take a vacation and while returning from that vacation, Butt was one of the victims that went down with the Titanic.

Asker thereminlife Asks:
The space shuttle is actually in northern virginia about 5 minutes from my hometown, not in the District of Columbia. Udvar-hazy is separate from the air and space museum geographically.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Thanks for the correction!