Prologue Magazine
Winter 2000, Vol. 32, No. 4

Abrupt Transition, Part 2
By C. L. Arbelbide
© 2000 by C. L. Arbelbide

"The Moon, the Stars, and All the Planets"

Summoned to the White House from the Capitol early in the evening of Thursday, April 12, 1945, Vice President Harry S. Truman was escorted upstairs to the study of Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt. Putting her arm around Truman, Eleanor informed him, "Harry, the President is dead." Stunned and speechless, the Vice President found the words to ask Mrs. Roosevelt, "Is there anything I can do for you?" The new widow's reply was simple and to the point: "Is there anything I can do for you? For you are the one in trouble now."85

Truman, like Tyler, had been Vice President for a short period of time— less than three months. Unlike the Coolidge swearing-in ceremony, this oath of office would be administered in the White House spotlight amid press and high-ranking officials.

In the Cabinet Room, the Vice President, sitting by himself in a brown leather chair, looked "absolutely dazed." A tearful Bess Truman and daughter, Margaret, "feeling as if she were going under anesthesia," arrived. At seven o'clock nearly everyone who was expected, including all ten members of the cabinet, stood quietly waiting for the staff to locate a Bible. Howell Crim, the fastidious head usher, returned with a Gideon edition that was properly dusted before being placed on the table. Truman later told his mother he would have "brought Grandpa Truman's Bible from his office bookcase if had he only known."86

Standing in the area between the end of the conference table and the wall, on which the portrait of President Woodrow Wilson hung, Vice President Truman held the book in his left hand as Chief Justice Harlan Stone administered the oath of office. Bess and Margaret stood within arm's length, while the cabinet squeezed into the area's remaining space behind the family. Cameramen, with less bulky equipment than that which disturbed Theodore Roosevelt's 1901 ceremony, positioned themselves to capture such a proceeding on film for the first time. Like Coolidge, Truman ended the oath with the added words "So help me God," and like President Arthur, Truman kissed the Bible.

By 7:15 the new President was convening his first cabinet meeting and issuing his first decision: the United Nations conference scheduled to open in San Francisco would indeed go on as planned. The meeting at an end, Secretary of War Henry Stimson remained to speak to the new President on a matter of great urgency. Thus Truman learned of the Manhattan Project and the nearly completed development of the atomic bomb.87

The new President's first full day in office came on Friday, April 13. At noon, Truman, with a full presidential entourage of cars, police, and Secret Service, arrived at the Capitol to lunch with friends. Surrounded by armed men, the President walked down halls where only the day before he had walked free and alone. A crowd of reporters awaited his departure. Truman, having enjoyed a relaxed relationship with the press, commented: "Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don't know whether you fellows ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me yesterday what had happened, I felt like the moon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me."88

In 1945 Truman reopened the issue of succession. He was concerned that "it now lies within my power to nominate the person who would be my immediate successor in the event of my own death or inability to act, I do not believe that in a democracy this power should rest with the Chief Executive."89 Calling for a reversion to the first Succession Act of 1792 but placing the Speaker of the House first, Truman also encouraged restoring the old act's special election provision.90 When the Republicans regained control of both houses during the 1946 midterm elections, Congress passed the Succession Act of 1947, rearranging the line of succession as Speaker of the House, president pro tempore of the Senate, then members of the cabinet beginning with the secretary of state.

On May 8, within twenty-five days of taking over the presidency, Germany surrendered, allowing Truman to celebrate simultaneously Victory-in-Europe Day and his sixty-first birthday. Decisions to drop two atomic bombs on Japan hastened the end of the war. Throughout the remaining term, Truman's "Buck Stops Here" philosophy was embraced by the American public.

"I Ask for Your Help— and God's"

How quickly does one move to take over the presidency when the President has been assassinated? Lyndon B. Johnson would be criticized both for not taking over quickly enough and for taking control too quickly.

The presidential journey had, on the morning of November 22, 1963, brought both President John F. Kennedy and Vice President Johnson together. Each rode in separate open limousines through the streets of downtown Dallas, Texas, on their way to a luncheon at the Trade Mart. Kennedy was shot by a sniper as the President's car moved away from the Texas Schoolbook Depository. The Vice President, two cars back, heard the shots. To the Vice President, it was unclear if the President was the only intended target or if this was a grand conspiracy. Johnson raced the scenarios through his mind— the President was dead— were he and possibly the Speaker of the House also in danger?

On the east coast, it was lunchtime. Special bulletins announcing the shooting of President John F. Kennedy interrupted television soap operas. It would be the first time that an abrupt transition of the American presidency would be played out worldwide through the young media of television and the transistor radio.

Word that priests were at the President's bedside reached Speaker John McCormack in the House restaurant. This news convinced him the President had died. A congressman followed with news that the Vice President too had been shot and that the Secret Service was on its way to provide McCormack protection. If both Kennedy and Johnson were dead, McCormack was no longer Speaker of the House but President of the United States. Once aware of this possibility, the Speaker rose up, only to experience a severe attack of vertigo. Sinking back into his seat and attempting to focus what little energy he had left, he was informed that the Vice President was unharmed.

Although President Kennedy was officially pronounced dead at 1:15 P.M. eastern standard time, public announcement was delayed until Johnson was safely on board Air Force One at Love Field. Concerned about a plot, Agent Rufus Youngblood directed the Vice President and Mrs. Johnson to separate cars. Johnson was herded into the backseat and told to crouch below the window level as Agent Youngblood sat guard over him. An arriving delivery van inadvertently blocked their departure from Parkland Hospital, prompting agents to draw their firearms. Fortunately it was just bad manners on the part of the delivery driver. Upon arrival at the plane, Youngblood ordered the group to run up the boarding steps. The hurried departure from the hospital left most of the aides and agents in the emergency room without any idea the Vice President had left the building.91

Once on board, Johnson headed for the stateroom television set, which was tuned to CBS commentator Walter Cronkite. In his mind Johnson knew he needed to be sworn in as soon as possible but sought affirmation from a variety of sources. Mrs. Johnson "listened to her husband canvas three congressmen on the question."92 The debate of when to take the oath was displaced with the question, "What about the oath?" Fuzzy memories of Truman, the published engravings of Coolidge and Arthur taking the oath were recalled, but the exact text eluded them.

Johnson's aide Jack Valenti, finally reunited with the Vice President on board Air Force One, recalled him murmuring "See that Marie Fehmer [secretary to the Vice President] gets the precise wording of the presidential oath."93 A frantic search ensued for a lawyer who knew the wording. Barefoot Sanders, a Dallas-based U.S. attorney rummaging through volumes of statutes, froze in foolish silence when a clerk suggested, "Hey, what about the Constitution?"

Johnson placed a telephone call to Attorney General Robert Kennedy, brother of the slain President, at his home in Virginia. Expressions of condolence gave way to the business of taking the oath. There remains a question over whether or not the attorney general advised that the Vice President should be sworn in in Texas. A return call from Kennedy to Johnson advised, "Anybody can swear you in. Maybe you'd like to have one of the judges down there whom you appointed. Any one of them can do it."94 Johnson directed that Sarah Tilghman Hughes, appointed by President Kennedy as U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of Texas, be found. John Spinuzzi, her law clerk, knew only that Judge Hughes had been on her way to the Trade Mart lunch to hear President Kennedy's address.

At Parkland, Mrs. Kennedy refused to leave the hospital without the body of her husband. On board Air Force One the Vice President made it clear the plane was not leaving without Mrs. Kennedy.

A verbal storm raged at Parkland, with Secret Service agents keeping most of the arguments from the young widow. Removing the remains of a homicide victim without an autopsy was breaking Texas law. Heated discussion mixed with the Secret Service's need to transport the slain President's casket to Love Field converted the situation into one huge shoving match. The use of muscle opened up a path through the corridor for the casket to be steered onto the ambulance dock. Mrs. Kennedy walked directly behind her husband, a gloved hand touching the casket. At 2:08 P.M., with the death certificate tucked into an agent's pocket, the young widow was directed to the jump seat beside the coffin and shortly thereafter followed her husband's casket up the steps of Air Force One, where it rested near the rear of the plane.

Judge Hughes had left the Trade Mart and returned home, telephoning her whereabouts to her clerk, who informed her that U.S. Attorney Sanders was searching for her. Just ten minutes from Love Field, if traffic was with her, Hughes returned to her car and headed for the airport. On board Air Force One, Mrs. Kennedy had agreed to the Vice President's request that she be present for the ceremony. Attention then turned to finding a photographer.

Official White House photographer Cecil Stoughton stood in the stateroom positioning the participants. He would photograph from Judge Hughes's right side and face the Vice President. On the Vice President's right stood Lady Bird Johnson, to his left, Mrs. Kennedy, still wearing the pink blood-stained suit.

A three-by-five-inch file card containing the oath was given to Judge Hughes. "What about a Bible?" a voice asked. President Kennedy always carried with him his personal Bible. In his private cabin, under the lid of the table between the two beds was the tooled leather volume. Imprinted on the cover was a gold cross, and tiny black-on-black initials, "JFK," were sewn on the inside cover. It was placed in Justice Hughes's right hand to hold for the President while she read the oath.

LBJ sworn in as President Nov. 22, 1963 Lyndon Johnson, flanked by Lady Bird Johnson and Jacqueline Kennedy, is sworn in as President aboard Air Force One. (NARA, LBJ Library)

As Stoughton snapped his first frame, he heard only a sickening silence. A small pin inside had failed to make contact. He jiggled and twisted the film advance lever, finally hearing a click. At 2:40 p.m., the ceremony completed, orders were given to take off.

Judge Hughes, in the process of stepping down the boarding steps, was hailed by a self-assured man who inquired if she wanted the two items she held in her hand. Assuming he was a security man and because the items did not belong to her, Judge Hughes transferred to the man the file card and the President's Bible, neither of which were ever located.

Upon arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, the President's casket was unloaded from the rear of the plane ahead of the new President— an error in protocol. President and Mrs. Johnson remained out of sight, allowing attention to be focused on the slain President. The slight may have been for the better. All eyes were riveted on the rear door as the spectators saw for themselves that what was said was true. The sight of the President's coffin sadly confirmed that Kennedy was indeed gone.

When the hearse had departed, full attention was directed to the new President. Standing at the microphones erected in the glare of television lights, the President's remarks were brief, ending with a simple and pointed request, "I ask for your help— and God's."

With his 1964 electoral victory, Johnson was officially sworn in as President on January 20, 1964. Where once stood the clerk of the U.S. Supreme Court holding the Bible, now stood Mrs. Johnson holding the family Bible, making her the first wife to stand with her President-elect husband at a formal oath-of-office ceremony.95

The Twenty-fifth Amendment

The abrupt transition of 1963 propelled to the forefront the issue of vice presidential vacancies. The next two offices in the 1947 line of succession were occupied by "aged and ill members of Congress," Speaker of the House John W. McCormack and President Pro Tempore of the Senate Carl Hayden.96

Between 1789 and 1963 sixteen vacancies had occurred in the vice presidency.97 Neither the Constitution nor the succession acts addressed the issue. Astonishingly lengthy lapses in the vice presidency had occurred.98 President Johnson would go without a vice president for nearly fourteen months until the 1965 inauguration. Unlike President Arthur, Johnson would not be put off any further.

When commenting on the introduction of the proposed Twenty-fifth Amendment in 1965, Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana reminded his listeners:

     The accelerated pace of international affairs, plus the overwhelming problems of modern military security, make it almost imperative that we change our system to provide for not only a President but a Vice President at all times.
     The modern concept of the vice presidency is that of a man "standing in the wings"— even if reluctantly— ready at all times to take the burden. He must know the job of the President. He must keep current on all national and international developments. He must, in fact, be something of an "assistant President."99

Ratified in 1967, the Twenty-fifth Amendment simultaneously empowered a President to nominate a Vice President when that office became vacant and addressed the issue of an "Acting President" in the event a presidential disability was determined to exist.100

One concern was that the amendment allowed for both the vice presidency and the presidency to be transformed from an elected office to an appointed position. Within less than eight years, that concern become a reality.101

"Our National Nightmare Is Over"

When Spiro Agnew resigned as Vice President on October 10, 1973, President Richard M. Nixon implemented the new amendment on October 12, nominating House Minority Leader Gerald Ford to fill the void. The entire process lasted seven weeks from the announcement to confirmation. Gerald Ford was administered the oath as Vice President in the House chamber by Chief Justice Warren Burger on December 6. Among those witnessing the historic ceremony were Betty Ford (standing between the two holding an open Bible), President Nixon, a joint session of Congress, and a television viewing audience.

Just over eight months later and minutes after President Nixon's resignation went into effect at noon on August 9, 1974, the Vice President was sworn in as President.

In one of the most historic White House scenes, a President bade the nation a televised farewell, was escorted to the waiting helicopter by his Vice President, who returned inside and took, in a televised East Room ceremony, the presidential oath. Mrs. Ford held the family Bible as Chief Justice Burger swore in the thirty-eighth President.

Shortly thereafter, the only man to be appointed as Vice President was implementing the Twenty-fifth Amendment and appointing his own Vice President. The year 1974 ended with the confirmation and swearing-in of Nelson Rockefeller as Vice President on December 19.

The irony of this chain of command was not lost on historians and commentators covering the July 4, 1976, bicentennial celebration. The Constitution, the document of democracy, had supplied the legal mechanism for the executive branch to be governed by an appointed President and Vice President. In his inaugural comments, Ford reminded the nation that "Our Constitution works," then set about demonstrating the importance of having a knowledgeable Vice President standing ready.

The Reflective Milestone

When the inaugural oath of office is administered, whether because of election or succession, something called history is happening. Each inauguration has come to serve as a reflective milestone not only of how the transfer of presidential power came about but of how each man handled the moment.

Under the best of circumstances such ceremonies have been eagerly anticipated and repeatedly recounted. In the worst of times, those unscripted and impromptu moments of abrupt transition remind us of the essence of the democratic process and of the Vice Presidents who carry on the presidency in the midst of national mourning.

Abrupt Transition, Part 1


C. L. Arbelbide is a historian and storyteller specializing in federal holiday history and unique events associated with the White House, the U.S. Capitol, and the National Mall. She is the author of The White House Easter Egg Roll (1997).


Notes

1. Margaret Jane Wyszomirski, "Removal of the President," in Michael Nelson, ed., Congressional Quarterly's Guide to the Presidency (1989), p. 353.

2. President Grant and Secretary of State Hamilton Fish witnessed the Saturday evening swearing-in ceremony administered to Hayes by United States Supreme Court Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite.

* There is some debate about whether Washington added these words. This article used information from the Senate Historical Office as its source. The U.S. Senate's inaugural web site (http://inaugural.senate.gov/history/chronology/gwashington1789.cfm) states the same.

3. It would not be until 1937 that the Vice President would share the swearing-in spotlight with the President. Ratified in 1933, the Twentieth Amendment, in part, allowed for successive presidential and vice presidential terms to begin on January 20th rather than March 4. When Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn into his second presidential term in 1937, Vice President John Nance Garner became the first Vice President to be sworn in in public.

4. Robert Seager II, And Tyler Too: A Biography of John & Julia Gardiner Tyler (1963), p. 144.

5. Mark O. Hatfield et al., Vice Presidents of the United States (1997), p. 142.

6. Constitution of the United States, Article 1, Section 3, clause 4: "The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate, but shall have no Vote, unless they be equally divided."

7. Alfred Steinberg, The First Ten: The Founding Presidents and Their Administrations (1967), p. 59.

8. Seager, And Tyler Too, p. 144.

9. William A. DeGregorio, The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents (1993), p. 143.

10. Ibid., p. 145.

11. Wymszomirski, "Removal of the President," p. 353.

12. Ibid.

13. Seager, And Tyler Too, p. 148; Hatfield, Vice Presidents, p. 142.

14. "The New President," National Intelligencier, Apr. 7, 1841, p. 3, col. 1; Hatfield, Vice Presidents, p. 143.

15. Michael Nelson, "Selection by Succession," Congressional Quarterly's Guide to the Presidency, p. 338.

16. Constitution of the United States, Article II, sec. 1, par. 6.

17. The 1792 act "stipulated that a double vacancy in the presidency and vice presidency should be remedied by a special election to a full four-year term the following November unless the vacancy occurred during the last six months of the departed president's term. In the meantime, the president pro tempore of the Senate (or if there were none, the Speaker of the House of Representatives) would 'act as president.'"
     James Madison, then a Virginia congressman, objected, in part, to positioning a federal legislator next in the line of succession as it would violate the principle of separation of powers, and in part because the legislation would bypass the cabinet members, specifically the secretary of state, who happened to be Thomas Jefferson. Overall concern revolved around the possibility of a successor from Congress who might be from a different political party. Nelson, "Selection by Succession," pp. 339 - 340.

18. Constitution of the United States, Article II, sec. 1, par. 6. This clause would be later modified by the Twentieth Amendment (ratified Jan. 23, 1933) and the Twenty-fifth Amendment (ratified Feb. 10, 1967). Both the Twentieth, in part, and the Twenty-fifth Amendments reconfirm the Vice President is first in line to accede to the presidency under the established set of circumstances, while the Twenty-fifth also introduces the issue of "Acting President" in the event the President becomes disabled.

19. Nelson, "Selection by Succession," p. 339.

20. Hatfield, Vice Presidents, p. 143.

21. Seager, And Tyler Too, p. 149.
     Joseph Nathan Kane, Facts About the Presidents (1989), p. 9: The Act of Congress signed by President George Washington in 1792— "An Act to Regulate the Time and Manner of Administering Certain Oaths"— established in Section 1 the oath that Vice Presidents-elect, Senators, Representatives, and other government officials would be administered: "I, (state name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States." Tyler felt this oath was enough but was persuaded to take the presidential oath as outlined in the Constitution.
     During the Civil War the oath was revised. Today the wording is as follows: "I, (state name), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God."

22. Norma Lois Peterson, The Presidencies of William Henry Harrison & John Tyler (1989), p. 48; Wyszomirski, "Removal of the President," p. 353.

23. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., ed., Running for President: the Candidates and Their Images, (1994), p. 161.

24. Editorial, New York Times, Apr. 7, 1841, p. 3, col. 1.

25. Seager, And Tyler Too, p. 149.

26. Hatfield, Vice Presidents, p. 143; Seager, And Tyler Too, p. 149.

27. Nelson, "Selection by Succession," p. 339.

28. Wyszomirski, "Removal of the President," p. 354.

29. Ibid.

30. Hatfield, Vice Presidents, p. 175.

31. Ibid., p. 176.

32. "Scenes and Incidents in the Capital," National Intelligencier, July 11, 1850, p. 3, col. 4.

33. Hatfield, Vice Presidents, p. 176.

34. Wyszomirski, "Removal of the President," p. 351.

35. Hatfield, Vice Presidents, p. 217.

36. Joint Committee on Printing, A Compilation of Messages and Papers of the Presidents, Vol. 8 (1897), p. 3501.

37. Hatfield, Vice Presidents, p. 216.

38. Wyszomirski, "Removal of the President," p. 362.

39. Ibid.

40. Ibid.

41. "The New Chief Executive," New York Times, Sept. 21, 1881, p. 1, col. 7.

42. "The Oath Administered," New York Times, Sept. 20, 1881, p. 1, col. 7.

43. "The New Chief Executive," New York Times, Sept. 21, 1881, p. 1, col. 7.

44. Ibid.

45. "The Oath Administered," New York Times, Sept. 20, 1881, p. 1, col. 7.

46. "Arthur Inaugurated," Washington Post, Sept. 23, 1881, p. 1, col. 6.

47. "The New Chief Executive," New York Times, Sept. 21, 1881, p. 1, col. 7.

48. Wyszomirski, "Removal of the President," p. 362.

49. "Arthur Inaugurated," Washington Post, Sept. 23, 1881, p. 1, col. 6; Kane, Facts About the Presidents, p. 131.

50. A Compilation of Messages and Papers of the Presidents, Vol. 10, pp. 4621, 4622.

51. Wyszomirski, "Removal of the President," p. 362.

52. Nelson, "Selection by Succession," p. 340.

53. Ibid.

54. National Park Service brochure: "Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural."

55. Edmund Morris, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt (1979), p. 739; Wyszomirski, "Removal of the President," p. 363.

56. Hatfield, Vice Presidents, p. 305.

57. "Mr. Roosevelt is Now the President," New York Times, Sept. 15, 1901, p. 1, col. 7.

58. Ibid., p. 1, col. 6.

59. "Roosevelt Quickly Sworn In As President," Buffalo Express, Sept. 15, 1901.

60. Ibid.

61. Ibid., p. 2, col. 1; p. 1, col. 7.

62. "The New President," Washington Post, Sept. 15, 1901, p. 1, col. 3.

63. Charles C. Euchner and John Anthony Maltes, "Selection and Removal of Presidents," in Congressional Quarterly's Guide to the Presidency, p. 262.

64. Ibid.

65. Ibid.

66. Donald R. McCoy, Calvin Coolidge: The Quiet President (1988), p. 148.

67. "The Midnight Oath," Ladies Home Journal, April 1924, p. 236.

68. Ibid.; Claude M. Fuess, Calvin Coolidge: The Man from Vermont (1940), p. 308.

69. Fuess, The Man from Vermont, p. 308.

70. "The Midnight Oath," Ladies Home Journal, April 1924, p. 17; Fuess, The Man from Vermont, p. 310; McCoy, The Quiet President, p. 148; Robert Sobel, Coolidge: An American Enigma (1998), p. 232.

71. McCoy, The Quiet President, p. 148; Sobel, An American Enigma, p. 232.

72. McCoy, The Quiet President, p. 149; Sobel, An American Enigma, p. 232.

73. McCoy, The Quiet President, p. 149.

74. "The Midnight Oath," Ladies Home Journal, April 1924, p. 17; Fuess, The Man from Vermont, p. 310.

75. Fuess, The Man from Vermont, p. 310.

76. McCoy, The Quiet President, p. 149.

77. "Coolidge Takes the Oath of Office," New York Times, Apr. 3, 1923, p. 5, col. 4.

78. Sobel, An American Enigma, p. 233.

79. Ibid., p. 235.

80. Ibid., p. 232.

81. Fuess, The Man from Vermont, pp. 310, 311.

82. "The Midnight Oath," Ladies Home Journal, April 1924, p. 17.

83. Ibid.

84. Ibid.

85. Jim Bishop, FDR's Last Year (1974), pp. 596 - 598.

86. David McCullough, Truman (1972), p. 347.

87. Ibid., p. 348.

88. Ibid., 353.

89. Nelson, "Selection by Succession," p. 340.

90. Ibid.

91. William Manchester, "A Troubled Flight from Dallas," Look Magazine, Feb. 21, 1967, p. 43 (excerpt from The Death of a President [1967], p. 238).

92. Ibid., p. 44 (Death of a President, p. 267).

93. Jack Valenti, A Very Human President (1975), p. 47.

94. Manchester, "A Troubled Flight from Dallas," p. 45 (Death of a President, p. 272).

95. James Browning, during the 1961 Kennedy inauguration, became the last of the clerks of the Supreme Court to hold the Bible.

96. Nelson, "Selection by Succession," p. 343.

97. By 1974 eighteen vice presidential vacancies had occurred. Beyond the nine Vice Presidents who acceded to the presidency, seven Vice Presidents died in office: George Clinton, 1812, (Madison); Elbridge Gerry, 1814 (Madison); William R. King, 1853 (Pierce); Henry Wilson 1875, (Grant); Thomas A. Hendricks, 1885 (Cleveland); Garret A. Hobart, 1899 (McKinley); and James S. Sherman, 1912 (Taft). Two vacancies were due to vice presidential resignations: John C. Calhoun, 1832 (Jackson), and Spiro T. Agnew, 1973 (Nixon).

98. With the deaths of President Taylor (1850) and Vice President King (1853, Pierce) the vice presidency remained vacant for all but six weeks from July 9, 1850, until March 4, 1857. From September 19, 1881, when President Garfield died, until March 4, 1889, when Vice President Levi Parsons Morton (Harrison) was inaugurated, the vice presidency was vacant for all but the few months that Vice President Hendricks (Cleveland) served in 1885 before dying. President Madison had vice presidential vacancies during parts of both of his administrations. For more than three-fourths of the terms of Presidents Tyler, Andrew Johnson, Arthur, Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, and Truman there were no Vice Presidents. President Coolidge went without a Vice President for eighteen months— from August 3, 1923, until Charles Gates Dawes was sworn in on March 4, 1925. For President Lyndon B. Johnson the office remained vacant for fourteen months until newly elected Vice President Hubert Humphrey was inaugurated on January 20, 1965. President Richard M. Nixon was— with the resignation of Spiro T. Agnew— without a Vice President from October 10, 1973, until Gerald Ford's swearing-in on December 6. Ford acceded to the presidency on August 9, 1974, and by December 9 had his vice presidential nominee Nelson A. Rockefeller on board.

99. Congressional Record, 88th Cong., 1st sess., Dec. 12, 1963, Vol. 109, pt. 18: 24421.

100. Constitution of the United States, Amendment Twenty-five:
     "Section 1: In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President.
     "Section 2: Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress."

101. Ibid., p. 345.

Articles published in Prologue do not necessarily represent the views of NARA or of any other agency of the United States Government.

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