Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Missouri's Second President

If you ask most in Missouri how many Presidents have been from Missouri, they will tell you one. And many of those can probably tell you that it was Harry S. Truman.

Can you name Missouri's 2nd President? I think many fewer people know about him. I learned about this from my son. I had never even heard about this before. He was never officially acknowledged as President and hence does not display in the list of Presidents on the Whitehouse website.

Some contend that David Rice Atchison from Plattsburg, MO, was President for a day.

There is a bronze monument of the man in Plattburg.

Excerpts from Senate site:

On a statue in Kansas City, Missouri, an inscription reads, "David Rice Atchison, 1807-1886, President of the U.S. [for] one day." The day of President Atchison's presumed presidency occurred on March 4, 1849.

In those days, the vice president regularly attended Senate sessions. Consequently, the Senate chose a president pro tempore to serve only during brief vice-presidential absences.

Until the 1930s, presidential and congressional terms began at noon on March 4. In 1849, that date fell on a Sunday, causing President Zachary Taylor to delay his inauguration until the next day. For some, this raised the question of who was president from noon of March 4 to noon of March 5. Of course, we now know that Taylor automatically became president on the fourth and could have begun to execute the duties of his office after taking the oath privately, a day before the public inauguration.

In 1849, the Senate president pro tempore immediately followed the vice president in line of presidential succession. That era's ever-present threat of sudden death made it essential to keep an unbroken order of succession. To ensure that there was a president pro tempore in office during adjournment periods, the vice president customarily left the Senate chamber in an annual session's final days so that the Senate could elect this constitutional officer. Accordingly, the Senate duly elected Atchison on March 2, 1849. His supporters, to the present day, claim that the expiration of the outgoing president's and vice president's terms at noon on March 4 left Atchison with clear title to the job.

This Urban Legend is even noted on Snopes.

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