10th President of the United States

Born: March 29, 1790 in Greenway, Virginia
Served: April 6, 1841 - March 3, 1845
Died: January 18, 1862 in Richmond, Virginia
Buried: Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia
        My wife, Debbie, and I took a trip to Washington D.C. back in 1996 before we were married. We drove down to Richmond for the day. We visited Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. It is called the Arlington  of the Confederacy because of the many famous Confederate people buried here. After entering the cemetery we came upon Confederate President Jefferson Davis first. We then drove to what is called on the map as President's Circle. In the middle is James Monroe. It is easy to find it since it looks like a giant victorian birdcage. A few yards away is John Tyler. Aside from the two presidents, there are 26 Confederate generals buried here. Among the more famous are JEB Stuart, George Pickett, Henry Heth and Fitzhugh Lee. After leaving Hollywood, we took a tour of the Virginia Statehouse (highly recommended). We had dinner in the Shockoe Slip District in Richmond at the Richbrau Brewing Company and Restaurant (I recommend the Griffin Golden Ale) . After which we drove back to our hotel in Arlington.

        John Tyler is an interesting person. He was the first vice-president to be elevated to the presidency when the sitting president died. He was the only president to switch parties while he was in office. He also was the only president to get elected to the Confederate Congress. Tyler was born on a plantation in Virginia. He was the 6th Virginian born president. He went to the College of William and Mary (like Jefferson and Monroe). He was the son of the Governor of Virginia. He was a natural for politics, which he entered in 1811. He was elected Governor of Virginia himself in 1825.  He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1827 and switched parties. Now a Whig, he became William Henry Harrison's runningmate for the 1840 presidential election. He was the "Tyler" in "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too". They easily defeated the unpopular Martin Van Buren.

        One month into his presidency, Harrison died. Tyler, who was at home in Virginia didn't even know Harrison was sick. On Sunday morning, in April of 1841, a messenger came to his home in Williamsburg, Virginia to inform him that the president was dead. This started a major controversy. He was the first vice president to become president. A southern slaveowner, he was not seen as being presidential enough. Also, no one seemed to know if he was the president or the acting president. John Quincy Adams referred to him as "His Accidency". His own cabinet (actually it was Harrison's) told him that they had to approve everything he did. Tyler stood up to them and everyone else feeling he was the president, just as if he was elected. The cabinet backed down as did everyone else and Tyler was sworn in as president three days later.

        As a Whig president, Tyler immediately got into trouble with his own party when he started going against many of their plans. A stubborn and uncompromising man, he was being called a traitor to the Whig Party. Within six months, all but one of Tyler's cabinet members resigned in protest. Prominent Whig politicians Henry Clay and Daniel Webster even introduced Impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives (It went no where). Of course, at the end of his term, he was not nominated for re-election. He left Washington D.C. for his plantation "Sherwood Forest" (I haven't been there yet, but I plan to visit it).

        In 1842, while he was president, his wife Letitia, who had already suffered a stroke, died. Tyler was the first president to become a widower while in office. Within months, he was remarried to Julia Gardiner, who was 30 years younger than him. This marriage produced seven kids, to go along with the seven from his first wife. Tyler was easily our most prolific president. Incidentally, it was his wife Julia that started the tradition of playing "Hail to the Chief".

        After the White House, Tyler stayed involved in politics in Virginia. In 1861, after Virginia seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy, he was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives. He moved into a Richmond (the Confederate capitol) hotel in early January. On January 12, after his wife joined him he became sick and collapsed in the hotel dining room. The doctors diagnosed him as suffering from bronchitis and a liver disorder. He planned to return to his Virginia plantation, but died the night before. He never got the chance to serve in the Confederate Congress.

        Tyler's body lay in state in the Confederate Congress draped with a Confederate flag. His funeral was in St. Paul's Episcopal Church and a large procession (around 150 carriages), which included Confederate President Jefferson Davis, escorted him to Hollywood Cemetery. Ironically, he was buried right next to President James Monroe who was a staunch Federalist. Considered a traitor by many in Washington D.C., his death was officially ignored. It wouldn't by until the 20th Century when an official marker was placed on his grave by Congress.

Here are some webpages of interest:

Sherwood Forest
White House Biography of John Tyler
The Internet Public Library Biography
The American President Biography
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