Inauguration Day Little Known Facts

Friday is Inauguration Day – a day that celebrates our Freedom and Liberty with a peaceful change in leadership. Here are some little known facts you might enjoy reading.

Two presidents were sworn in four times: Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected and inaugurated for four terms. Barack Obama was publicly inaugurated twice plus he had two private ceremonies. At his first inauguration Chief Judge John Roberts flubbed the oath so it was repeated the next night at the White House in a private ceremony. When Obama was inaugurated for his second term, the constitutionally designated day was on a Sunday so the public Inauguration was held on a Monday. Roberts administered the oath privately on the Sunday.

Two presidents that had a fight on Inauguration Day were the outgoing President Truman and the incoming president Eisenhower. There was a bitter campaign particularly when Eisenhower appeared with Senator Joseph McCarthy at a Wisconsin rally. This was after McCarthy attacked General George Marshall and Truman thought Eisenhower should have supported his old friend Marshall, but he did not. Further, Truman thought it was appropriate for Eisenhower’s son to be at his father’s inauguration so he arranged for him to come back from his fighting in Korea. Eisenhower took this as a snub and an attempt to embarrass him, and told this to Truman. Also, the Eisenhowers did not leave their limo the morning of the inauguration to join the Trumans in the White House for the traditional tea. Instead they sat and waited for the Trumans to come to the limo. They did not speak for years – until Kennedy’s funeral when they road together to mourn the young president.

The only past president that swore in a successor was William Howard Taft who was appointed to the Supreme Court as Chief Justice by Harding and served from 1921 to 1930. Taft swore in Coolidge in 1925 and Hoover in 1929.

The president that was sworn in by his father was Calvin Coolidge. His father was a state notary and administered the oath at 2:47 am on Aug 3 in Vermont, a day after President Harding died in San Francisco. To make sure there would be no question about Coolidge’s oath since it was wasn’t administered by a federal judge, he was sworn in secretly on Aug 21 in Washington, DC by Federal Judge Adolph A. Hoehling, Jr. The public was informed about this after Coolidge’s terms as president were completed.

The first “Acting President” that became “President” was John Tyler who was Vice President when President William Henry Harrison died one month after his inauguration after contracting pneumonia when he gave the longest inaugural address in cold weather without a coat or hat to “prove” that he was fit to be president. When Harrison was elected he was 68. Reagan surpassed this and was 69 when inaugurated and Trump will be the oldest president when inaugurated – age 70. When Harrison died Tyler said he would take over as president and be president, not “acting president.” He prevailed and set the precedent that the vice president assumes the presidency upon the death [or resignation] of a president. By the way, Tyler’s political enemies called him “His Accidency.”

The first president that refused to be sworn in on a Sunday was James Monroe and his Vice President for their second terms that expired on March 4, 1821. They were given the oath for their second terms on March 5. This being so, there was no president or vice president from Noon on March 4 through Noon on March 5 so President Pro Tem John Gaillard who was next in line of succession assumed the presidency for that day. A similar claim was made when Zachary Taylor and his vice president refused to be sworn in on a Sunday and waited until Monday, but this time there was no President Pro Tem of the Senate since his term expired on March 4, so no one assumed that position.

There were two presidents at the same time in 1877 when Rutherford B. Hayes wanted to be sworn in on Saturday March 3 and not have to wait until Monday March 5 for the oath. His was a hotly contested election that was only decided by the House of Representatives on March 2. He was afraid the loser would try to have the oath administered on Sunday Mar 4, so he beat him to the altar. President Grant whose term would expire the next day, March 4, permitted this, so both Grant and Hayes were presidents simultaneously. The public inaugural ceremony was held March 5 as scheduled.

Five presidents did not attend their successors’ inaugurations. John Adams, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Johnson were angry at their successors. Woodrow Wilson road to the Capitol with Harding but did not attend the inauguration. Nixon left Washington, DC when he resigned so could not be there when Ford was sworn in.

I hope you enjoyed reading this and learned some things you found interesting.

Free gift: On Friday the Post Office will have a special one day only official postmark for the Inauguration. Email me your postal mailing address (no later than Feb 10) and I will send you a commemorative collectible envelope with that postmark on an appropriately designed envelope with an American flag stamp.

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