Scramblin' thru... the U.S. Presidents
"The Preacher President"
Election of 1880
A Presidential Life in Review
James Garfield was sworn in as the 20th U.S. President in March 1881 but died in September of the same year from an assassin's bullet, making his tenure in office the second-shortest in U.S. history (after William Henry Harrison's 30 days in the White House). Born in an Ohio log cabin, Garfield was a self-made man who became a school president in his mid-20s. During the Civil War (1861-1865), he fought for the Union and rose to the rank of Major General. Garfield, a Republican, went on to represent his home state in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1880, a divided Republican Party chose Garfield as its dark horse Presidential nominee. After winning the election, his brief time in office was marked by political wrangling. In July 1881, Garfield was shot by a disgruntled constituent and died less than three months later. Source: The History Channel
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James A. Garfield Fun Facts
Garfield was born in a log cabin in rural Cuyahoga County (near Cleveland), Ohio, becoming the seventh (and last) President to be born in a log cabin. His father died when he was still a baby, and he was raised by a single mother in virtual poverty.
Garfield was the heaviest President... at birth. He weighed 10 lbs.
Garfield could write Latin with one hand and Greek with the other... at the same time.
Garfield studied at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, where he was taught by Platt R. Spencer, who had developed a system of cursive handwriting that was the norm in American society until the advent of the typewriter in the 20th Century. (Dr. Hartnell remembers learning cursive when he was in the 3rd grade... from his father... during a Michigan State football game...)
Garfield was the first President to campaign in two languages: English and German.
On election day, November 2, 1880, Garfield was, at the same time, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, U.S. Senator-Elect, and President-Elect. This happened because while still serving as a Congressman in 1879, Garfield was selected by the Ohio Senate to replace John Sherman as U.S. Senator from Ohio - Sherman had resigned his position to campaign for the Presidency. Garfield then went on, unexpectedly, to win the Election of 1880. As a result, following the election, Garfield was a sitting Congressman in the U.S. House of Representatives, a U.S. Senator-Elect, and the U.S. President-Elect... all at the same time.
Garfield's mother was the first mother of a President to attend her son's inauguration.
At the age of 26, Garfield became President of Hiram College in Ohio. (Garfield had attended Hiram College before transferring to finish his degree at Williams College in Massachusetts.) When Garfield was President of Hiram College, the school only had five faculty members.
During the Civil War, Garfield attained the rank of Major General and participated in a number of battles, including the Battle of Shiloh. However, after being elected to Congress in 1862, he resigned his commission to focus on work in Washington, D.C. A strict abolitionist, he felt that Abraham Lincoln was "too soft" on slavery and on the South in general. In the Election of 1864, Garfield refused to endorse or support Lincoln's run for re-election.
Garfield was a member of the Delta Upsilon fraternity while at Williams College in Massachusetts. This fraternity has had many famous members over time, including former Notre Dame football coach, Lou Holtz, and author Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Before entering politics, Garfield taught Greek and other classical languages at Hiram College in Ohio... where he met (and eventually married) one of his students, Lucretia. Together they had seven children. One of his sons, James R. Garfield, served as Secretary of the Interior under President Teddy Roosevelt.
Garfield was against the development of paper currency. At one point, he referred to cash as "the printed lies of the Government". He believed paper currency would be the ruin of the U.S. economy and strongly supported keeping "specie" (silver and gold coins) as the primary form of currency.
Garfield had not openly planned on running for President in 1880, instead supporting fellow Republican John Sherman. However, when a deadlock ensued in the Republican primaries over the leading three candidates (Sherman, James G. Blaine, and former President Ulysses S. Grant, who was running for a third term), Garfield - to his complete surprise - suddenly emerged as the winner, as the Republicans felt he was the best possible "compromise" candidate. He went on to win the Election of 1880 by just 9,070 Popular Votes over Democrat Winfield Hancock.
On July 21, 1881, just 131 days after taking office, Garfield was shot in the back by Charles J. Guiteau while entering a Washington, D.C. railroad station. (Guiteau was known around D.C. as an emotionally disturbed man. He killed Garfield because the President refused to appoint him to a European consulship. When he shot Garfield, he shouted, "Arthur is President now!") Garfield was preparing to leave for Williams College where he planned to introduce his two sons to his alma mater. The shots came from a .44 British Bulldog, which Guiteau had purchased specifically because he thought it would look impressive in a museum. Garfield did not die immediately; instead, he lay sick in D.C. for nearly three months. Garfield's doctors were unable to remove the bullet, which was lodged in his pancreas. Alexander Graham Bell invented a metal detector to attempt to find the bullet, but it proved unsuccessful. Another inventor, attempting to give comfort to Garfield during the hot D.C. summer, invented what was likely the first air conditioner, a contraption that blew forced air over a box full of ice. On September 19, 1881, the President died of blood poisoning thanks to his doctors probing for the bullet with non-sterile instruments. He died in the same hospital room where his wife, Lucretia, was recovering from malaria. At Guiteau's trial, the jury deliberated one hour before returning a guilty verdict. Sentenced to be hanged, Guiteau climbed the scaffold on June 30, 1882, convinced that he had done God's work. (Guiteau was, ironically, a preacher.)