Presidents Day: the zero curse


After John F. Kennedy was assassinated in November 1963, I remember reading about the zero curse. Going back to 1840, every President elected in a year ending in zero died in office.

This is how we ended up with three Presidents during both 1841 and 1881.

1840: President is Martin Van Buren. William Henry Harrison, the last president born as a British subject, was elected

1841, March 4: WHH is inaugurated

1841, April 4: WHH dies, perhaps of pneumonia, but more likely from septic shock. John Tyler, who ended up having 15 children, became President. He still has a living grandson. 

1860: Abraham Lincoln was elected.

1864: Lincoln was reelected.

1865, April 14: Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth and died the next day when Andrew Johnson became President.

1880: Rutherford Birchard Hayes is President.

1880: James Abram Garfield was elected President and inaugurated the following March 4

1881, July 2: Garfield is shot by Charles J. Guiteau over a perceived political slight

1881, September 19: Garfield dies, probably from sepsis. Chester Alan Arthur became President.

1896: William McKinley is elected and inaugurated the following March 4

20th century

1900: McKinley is re-elected and inaugurated the following March 4

1901, September 6: McKinley is shot by Leon Czolgosz

1901, September 14: McKinley dies from the shot and gangrene. Theodore Roosevelt, the first sitting President to make a diplomatic trip abroad, took office. He was also the youngest person to become President.

1920: Warren Gamaliel Harding is elected and inaugurated the following March 4

1923, August 2: Harding died, likely from a cardiac arrest, though it was thought at the time it was a cerebral hemorrhage. Calvin Coolidge, the only President born on the 4th of July (1872), was sworn in early the following morning. He was visiting his family in Vermont. “His father, a notary public and justice of the peace, administered the oath of office in the family’s parlor by the light of a kerosene lamp at 2:47 a.m. on August 3, 1923, whereupon the new President of the United States returned to bed.”

1932, 1936: Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected, then reelected president, inaugurated the following March.

1940: FDR was reelected and inaugurated the following March.

1944: FDR was reelected and inaugurated the following March.

1945, April 12: FDR died of a cerebral hemorrhage. Harry S. Truman, his third Vice-President after John Nance Garner (two terms) and Henry A. Wallace became President. 

1960: John Fitzgerald Kennedy was elected and inaugurated the following January 20. He was the youngest person elected President and also the youngest President at the end of his tenure.

1963, November 22: JFK was shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald and possibly another. Lyndon Baines Johnson became President.  

another Teddy

When Ted Kennedy, the youngest child of Joseph and Rose Kennedy, contemplated running for President in 1980, I was extremely worried for him. All of his brothers died violent deaths. On August 12, 1944, Joe and Rose’s eldest child, Joe Jr., “a Navy pilot, was killed on an air mission.” The second child, JFK, was assassinated, as was the seventh child, Robert Francis Kennedy, in June 1968 while running for President.

Fortunately, Teddy was unable to describe why he wanted the office, and he lost the Democratic nomination to the incumbent, Jimmy Carter, who was the first President born in a hospital. In 1979, he was also the first to light the National Menorah, officially observing Hanukkah celebrations. 

Of course, Ronald Reagan, the Republican, was elected in 1980 and was inaugurated the following January 20.  On March 30, 1981, Reagan was shot by John Hinckley. Was the curse still in effect? Fortunately, no. I didn’t vote for him, but I didn’t want him getting killed. 

Not incidentally, knowing this arcane stuff has made remembering the Presidents in order easier. The only President to die in office who didn’t fit the pattern was Zachary Taylor, elected in 1848, inaugurated on March 4 of the next year, died on July 9, 1950 from circumstances still under debate. Millard Fillmore succeeded him. There were four Whig party Presidents: WH Harrison, Tyler, Taylor, and Fillmore, who collectively served only eight years. 

November 22 always means one thing to me: JFK

“The records released so far may not confirm or disprove any of the many conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy’s assassination.”

I’ve mentioned before the fact that JFK assassination records were scheduled to be released by the National Archives by October 26, 2017. Like most people my age, the killing of JFK in 1963 is among the most recalled events in our then-young lives, maybe the first significant event external to ourselves and our families.

When the current regime announced the impending release of the last documents, I was relieved. To have suppressed them, as rumors suggested, would have only energized the conspiracy theorists.

But then they actually decided to hold back some 200 documents, thousands of pages, for another six months to allow the FBI, CIA, et al to make the case that they should remain under lock and key. The regime cited unspecified “national security concerns,” an argument Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, said was “amazing… What possible national security interests are still at risk from an event that happened 54 YEARS AGO?”

I can see where there could be some embarrassment. In fact, we’ve already seen that in the material that’s been released. Lee Harvey Oswald was already on the radar of law enforcement. There had been credible threats on the life of JFK. J. Edgar Hoover, the FBI head, was livid about the shooting of Oswald, who was in police custody, by Jack Ruby, as there were credible threats against him.

Pretty much since the Warren Commission Report was excerpted in my local newspaper – I STILL have the black 3-ring binder with the clippings glued to lined school paper – I have wanted to know more. What WAS Oswald doing in Mexico a few months before the shooting?

The Boston Globe noted that the 2,800 records released so far “offer insights into his death that were previously hidden from the public. They help paint a more complete picture of Lee Harvey Oswald and share previously undisclosed details about his background, and they provide color and reaction from the days following Kennedy’s death.

“The records released so far may not confirm or disprove any of the many conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy’s assassination, but they begin to piece together parts of unknown history and have made some people even more anxious for the remaining documents to be released.” And that includes me.

The JFK Assassination: A Cast of Characters.

John Fitzgerald Kennedy would have been 100

I’m old enough to (barely) remember Dwight Eisenhowever as President. But I was paying attention during the 1960 Presidential campaign. I don’t recall having a strong preference between John Kennedy and Richard Nixon initially.

I became sympathetic towards JFK after he gave a speech about his Catholic faith in September 1960 in Houston, TX. It seemed unfair then, and now, that he was forced to defend his religion and his participation in it.

Photowannabe’s high school band played and marched down Pennsylvania Avenue for President Kennedy’s Inauguration Parade.

I liked the Kennedys in the White House. They had a couple children, Caroline, a little older than my baby sister, and the baby, John, Jr., who was born just after the election.

I wasn’t paying attention to the disastrous Bay of Pigs incursion in Cuba in April 1961. But all of us were aware of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, because we had the vague feeling that because of…WHATEVER was happening, we could end up at war, perhaps in the United States.

The cliche that there was a picture of JFK, MLK Jr and Jesus in every black home was an exaggeration, but I surely saw the phenomenon many times. In terms of the 35th president, it seemed more for his POTENTIAL for aiding the civil rights movement, which, by the last year of his life, I was paying a lot of attention to.

Here’s a factoid: “After a meeting with the National Council of Senior Citizens, President John F. Kennedy encouraged all Americans to pay tribute to older people across the country by designating May 1963 as Senior Citizens Month. Every president since has issued a formal proclamation during or before the month of May in support of older Americans.”

I do recall, with some detail, the death of Patrick Kennedy in August 1963, at less than two days old. This made me incredibly sad.

Of course, the shooting in Dallas was etched in the minds of everyone above a certain age. Some months later, the Warren Report on the assassination was released, with excerpts appearing in the local newspaper. I cut out those pages and taped them on paper which I then put in a three-ring binder. I still have that binder in the attic somewhere.

It was only later I thought, it wasn’t even supposed to be John that his father would groom to be President, it was supposed to be Joe, Jr. But he died in the war,the same one that almost took Jack’s life as well.

Of course, there are a bunch of centennial stories out there, from the Kennedy Center and Celebrate JFK at 100 by walking in his footsteps, e.g. Or Inside the Scandalous Life of JFK’s Sister, Kick Kennedy.

Jackie was right: Camelot was over on 11/22/1963. I didn’t know what that meant at the time, but surely I felt it, that loss of innocence and possibility. Lyndon Johnson undoubtedly achieved more for civil rights, using the slain leader as a prod for Congress to take the right action. But things would never be the same.

I collected as many Kennedy 50-cent pieces as I could, which were – alas- stolen, because I wanted to, quite literally, hold onto that time as long as I could.

Presidents Day 2017: Nixon’s the One

JFK Calls about Furniture

George Washington’s first inaugural address (April 1789), referring to himself: “One, who, inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpractised in the duties of civil administration, ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies.”

Now I Know: The Case of George Washington versus Pinocchio

John Quincy Adams: When The People Cheered

Presidents in Our Backyard – Part 1 (Martin Van Buren, Chester A. Arthur, Ulysses S. Grant)

The highest-ranked President who only served one-term is James Knox Polk.

Sarah Knox Taylor, the second daughter of Zachary Taylor and the first Mrs. Jefferson Davis

This is an actual standard fantasy I’ve had over the years: I’m captured, and the Americans think I’m a spy. I name all the Presidents correctly, including the year entering the office and political party – I really CAN do that – then they shoot me, because OBVIOUSLY, I’m a Soviet/Russian/Chinese spy, since NOBODY knows Millard Fillmore (1850-1853, Whig), who was New York State Comptroller before becoming Vice-President.

Worst president ever: The ignominy of James Buchanan – On the way to the Capitol for the inauguration of his successor on March 4, 1861, Buchanan told Abraham Lincoln, “If you are as happy in entering the White House as I shall feel on returning to Wheatland [his home in Pennsylvania], you are a happy man indeed.”

Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address (1861)
“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

Lincoln’s Great Depression

Now I Know The Vice:President (David Rice Atchison) and John Wilkes Booth’s Heroic Brother

Are You a Presidential Beard Connoisseur?

Ulysses S. Grant’s Veal & Sweet Potato Fries

The first President to ban immigrants?

Chris Churchill: A chat with President Chester A. Arthur

Now I Know: Grover Cleveland’s Pole Tax

‘All for each and each for all:’ Teddy Roosevelt’s Square Deal

Theodore Roosevelt holds that it is “unpatriotic, servile, and morally treasonable to proclaim that there must be no criticism of the President.” (1918)

Who was the first president to visit Canada? I was surprised.

Quora: Which US President had the most foresight?

Listening In: JFK Calls about Furniture (July 25, 1963)

Lyndon Johnson Speech Before Congress on Voting Rights (March 15, 1965): “There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem. And we are met here tonight as Americans—not as Democrats or Republicans–we are met here as Americans to solve that problem.”

Lyndon Johnson orders pants.

Nixon Aide Reportedly Admitted Drug War Was Meant To Target Black People. “Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course, we did.” Anyone who read Michele Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow already knew this.

Nixon’s Vietnam Treachery. This was treason.
US fatalities in the Vietnam war:
1969 – 11,780
1970 – 6,173
1971 – 2,414
1972 – 759
1973 – 68
1974 – 1
1975 – 62

Now I Know: The Red Menace (Nixon in China)

Three Presidential $1 Coins were issued in 2016, the final year of the program, for Richard M. Nixon, Gerald R. Ford, and Ronald Reagan. Jimmy Carter had the audacity of still being alive; hope he’ll get one down the line, after he passes away.

Now I Know: Reagan and Gorbachev’s Green Pact

You Must Remember This podcast – Storm Warning: Ronald Reagan, the FBI and HUAC (THE BLACKLIST EPISODE #8)

10 Books to Understand the Obama Presidency

Presidential Payroll: What Commanders in Chief Have Earned Since 1789

Mark Lane

Dick Gregory ran for President in 1968, with Mark Lane as his VP running mate.

GregoryLane I don’t know when it was, at all, though it was in the late 1970s or early 1980s. I was in an airport, probably on my way to Charlotte, NC, or San Diego, CA, but it was neither of those cities’ airports or in Albany.

I was reading the New York Times, maybe the Sunday paper. The cover story was about a guy named Mark Lane about to be indicted for something or other. Then who should I see but Mark Lane?

I knew who he was, mostly from his contrarian views on the John F. Kennedy assassination.mHe believed the CIA was involved in the murder, producing a thesis casting doubt on the lone-assassin theory – “and even whether Oswald had actually been involved in the crime.” When the Warren Report summaries came out in the local newspaper, I cut them out and pasted them in a three-ring binder – I may STILL Have this – so I was a JFK assassination junkie.

Mark Lane was also involved in civil rights activism. I recognized him right away, and I’m not sure I needed the picture in the paper. Somehow we got to talking.

One of the things we discussed was how I tried to talk to my parents, especially my father, NOT to vote for Dick Gregory for President, who had Lane as his VP running mate, in 1968. My father was keen on voting for a black man, the comedian-activist Gregory. I insisted that Richard Nixon, the Republican candidate, was too dangerous and that they should vote for Hubert Humphrey, the Democrat, instead of throwing away his vote. For sure, I STILL have the button pictured.

(How my folks actually voted, I’ll never know, of course. I’ve “thrown away” my vote once or twice subsequent to that year when I was not yet eligible to cast a ballot. That topic is extremely hot in 2016.)

Mark Lane was very generous in hearing about my politicking against him. I’m sure we at least mentioned JFK, but not his then-current legal troubles. Nor did we talk about his peripheral involvement in the Jonestown massacre, since I was unaware of it until much later.

Mark Lane died on May 11 at the age of 89. I was going to write about him, then it slipped my mind, but Shooting Parrots reminded me.

JFK.Mark Lane

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial