President of the United States/Vice Presidential Succession

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What is a Vice President?[edit | edit source]

Like the President, the office of the Vice President is defined by the Articles of the Constitution, as well as the 20th Amendment and the 25th Amendment. In addition to succeeding the President, the Constitution also identifies the Vice President as the President of the Senate, but the only power given to this role is to break a tie vote. In the absence of a sitting Vice President, a President pro tempore of the United States Senate, or "President pro tem", is elected by the Senate to serve as President of the Senate. The President pro tem is third in line of succession to the Presidency, after the Vice President of the United States and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Seccession and Term of Office[edit | edit source]

In accordance with the Articles of the Constitution, when Vice Presidents succeed to the Presidency, they serve the remainder of the term, so the next election year proceeds as scheduled. The net effect is that a term of office is split between two people. The number of instances of succession are instructive for many reasons, so let's take a closer look at them.

A handy way to quickly identify successions to the Presidency is to scan the List of Inaugurations, so let's take a quick look. As discussed previously, the 1st inauguration of George Washington was April 30, 1789. However, the 2nd inauguration was March 4, 1793, as were the following inaugurations with little variation, until April 6, 1841, when John Tyler became the 10th President. A total of 6 successions occured before the date of inauguration was first changed to January 20th in 1937, when Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President, was inaugurated for his 2nd term. With his death after the beginning of his 4th term, FDR became one of another 3 Presidents to be succeeded by their Vice President, making a total of 9 throughout US History.

1840 Election - William Henry Harrison & John Tyler[edit | edit source]

William H. Harrison had won the election of 1840 to become the 9th President. Only 30 days after his March 4th inaugeration, William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia. Upon taking the Presidential Oath of Office, John Tyler took the position that he was indeed the President, and not merely an Acting President. Though the situation was unprecedented, his claim was considered consistent with the Articles of the Constitution and he became the first Vice President to succeed to President.

Order President Elected Dates in Office
9th William Henry Harrison 1840 1841
10th John Tyler 1841 - 1845

1848 Election - Zachary Taylor & Millard Fillmore[edit | edit source]

A little over nine years later, a similar incident occurred with the death on July 9, 1850 of Zachary Taylor, the 12th President. Elected together in 1848, he was succeeded by Millard Filmore, the 13th President, inaugerated one day later on July 10, 1850. Though the official cause of death was gastroenteritis, typically a viral infection, there are those who believe Zachary Taylor was intentionally assasinated by poisoning of the food he sampled during the July 4th celebration only five days previous.

Order President Elected Dates in Office
12th Zachary Taylor 1848 1849 - 1850
13th Millard Fillmore 1850 - 1853

1864 Election - Abraham Lincoln & Andrew Johnson[edit | edit source]

As the Civil War ground towards its final conclusion, the Presidential election proceded as scheduled in late 1864 when Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President, ran for his second term with Andrew Johnson as his running mate. Winning by the proverbial landslide, Abraham Lincoln was again inaugerated on March 4, 1865. A little over a month later on April 9th, General Robert E. Lee of the Confederate States of America (CSA) surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant of the United States of America (USA) at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia. Six days afterwards, Abraham Lincoln was pronounced dead on April 15th, having been shot in the head at point-blank range by John Wilkes Booth the night before at Ford's Theater. Later that morning, Andrew Johnson was sworn in as the 17th President, becoming the first Vice President to succeed upon the assassination of a President.

Order President Elected Dates in Office
16th Abraham Lincoln 1864 1861 - 1865
17th Andrew Johnson 1865 - 1869

1880 Election - James A. Garfield & Chester A. Arthur[edit | edit source]

In 1881, James A. Garfield, the 20th President, became the second president to be assassinated. Elected to office in 1880 with Chester A. Arthur as his running mate, James A. Garfield served slightly less then four months before being shot by Charles J. Guiteau the morning of July 2, 1881. For over two months, the President grew increasingly ill due to the complications of blood poisoning and pneumonia associated with the bullet lodged in his back, eventually passing away on September 19th. Later that same day, Chester A. Arthur was sworn in as the 21st President.

Order President Elected Dates in Office
20th James A. Garfield 1880 1881
21st Chester A. Arthur 1881 - 1885

1900 Election - William McKinley & Theordore Roosevelt[edit | edit source]

The 1900 election of William McKinley, the 25th President, and Theodore Roosevelt, his Vice President, ushered in a new Century. First inaugerated in 1897, William McKinley was the last of the Civil War veterans to hold office, and during this first term, presided over the Spanish-American war from April to August in 1898. On September 6th, 1901, six months after his second inaugeration, William McKinley was shot twice by Leon Frank Czolgosz (Zol-gash). While the first bullet was removed from his shoulder, the second had ripped through his stomach, pancreas, and kidney, then finally lodged in the muscles of his back. For about six days he appeared to be improving, but after his first sup of toast and coffee, he relapsed and died from gangrene surrounding his wounds on September 14th, 1901. Traveling by train to the President's side, Theodore Roosevelt was notified by telegram that his predecessor had died at 2:30 AM. Later in the day, he was sworn in as the 26th President at the Ansley Wilcox House in Buffalo, New York.

Order President Elected Dates in Office
25th William McKinley 1900 1897 - 1901
26th Theordore Roosevelt 1901 - 1909

1920 Election - Warren G. Harding & Calvin Coolidge[edit | edit source]

Warren G. Harding served as the 29th President from 1921 to 1923 when he passed due to a heart attack or a stroke at 7:35 p.m. on August 2, 1923. In the Aftermath of World War I, Warren G. Harding and Calvin Coolidge won the 1920 election with a promised return to Normalcy. However, his term in office was plagued by scandalous Cabinet members, and on a return trip from Alaska he fell ill and then died, leaving Calvin Coolidge to succeed him as 30th President.

Order President Elected Dates in Office
29th Warren G. Harding 1920 1921 - 1923
30th Calvin Coolidge 1923 - 1929

1944 Election - Franklin D. Roosevelt & Harry S. Truman[edit | edit source]

In late 1944, even as World War II was drawing towards a close, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President was elected to his fourth term, while his running mate Harry S. Truman began his first term as Vice President after previously serving as Senator from Missouri. Having already served two terms during the Great Depression and another during WWII, Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugerated yet again on January 20, 1945, then died a little over three months later on the afternoon of April 12th after suffering a massive cerebral hemorrhage. Upon his death, Harry S. Truman was sworn in as the 33rd President to command the final US victories over both Germany and Japan.

Order President Elected Dates in Office
32nd Franklin D. Roosevelt 1944 1933 - 1945
33rd Harry S. Truman 1945 - 1953

1960 Election - John F. Kennedy & Lyndon Johnson[edit | edit source]

Following the first televised Presidential Debates, John F. Kennedy, the 35th President, and his running mate, Lyndon B. Johnson, where elected to office in 1960. For nearly three years following his inaugeration, John F. Kennedy made monumental decisions during such world events as the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missle Crisis, and the growing confrontation that would become the Vietnam War. On the domestic front, he presided over events associated with the Civil Rights Movement, the Space Program, the Peace Corps, and as always, the Economy. Shortly after noon, on November 22, 1963, John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas by Lee Harvey Oswald, who was himself shot and killed by Jack Ruby. Two hours after the death of his predecessor, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as the 36th President on Air Force One at Love Field Airport in Dallas.

Order President Elected Dates in Office
35th John F. Kennedy 1960 1961 - 1963
36th Lyndon Johnson 1963 - 1969

1972 Election - Richard Nixon & Spiro Agnew[edit | edit source]

Vice President during the Eisenhower administration, Richard Nixon was himself elected as the 37th President in 1968, with Spiro Agnew as his running mate. After a first term replete with significant events, such as the Apollo Moonwalks, the end of the US Draft, Desegregation, and the first Presidential visit to China, Richard Nixon was elected at the height of his popularity to a second term in 1972. Shortly after his second inaugeration the Paris Peace Accords were signed on January 27, 1973, officially ending direct US involvement in the Vietnam War. Yet, only a few months before the election, on June 17, 1972, several men were caught breaking into Democratic Party headquarters at the Watergate Hotel in Washington, D.C. As the Watergate scandal quickly grew, Spiro Agnew was himself under investigation by the United States Attorney’s office, on charges of extortion, tax fraud, bribery, and conspiracy, finally beoming the first Vice President to resign from office on October 10, 1973. Two days later, on October 12th, the vice-presidential vacancy provision of the 25th Amendment was implemented for the first time as the US Senate nominated Gerald Ford, who took the oath of Vice President on December 6, 1973. In the following year, the House Judiciary Committee, controlled by Democrats, opened formal and public impeachment hearings on May 9, 1974. By the end of July, they voted to recommend three articles of impeachment against the President for obstruction of justice, abuse of power, and contempt of Congress. On August 5, 1974, the Smoking Gun Tape was released, its contents making clear the President's complicity in the Watergate Scandal. Richard Nixon resigned as US President on August 9, 1974, and Gerald Ford was sworn in as the 38th President. One month later, Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon on September 8, 1974.

Order President Elected Dates in Office
37th Richard Nixon 1972 1969 - 1974
n/a Spiro Agnew n/a
38th Gerald Ford n/a 1974 - 1977

Assignment[edit | edit source]

Complete Worksheet 3.