America’s first vice president, John Adams said this about the job, “My country has in its wisdom contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.” Not exactly high praise. The reputation for the office was not off to an auspicious start, to say the least. And, it didn’t get much better over the course of time. John Nance Garner, vice president under Franklin Delano Roosevelt, described the position this way, “The vice presidency isn’t worth a warm pitcher of spit.”
However, no matter how the office has been described various candidates have lined up to take the job—47, in fact, have served as vice president. As Bill Vaughan was quoted, “The vice presidency is sort of like the last cookie on the plate. Everybody insists he won’t take it but somebody always does.”
This year two men have signed up for the bottom of the ticket—Tim Kaine of Virginia and Mike Pence of Indiana. And, with the exception of New York which boasts 11, more vice presidents have been from Indiana than any other state. Five have hailed from the Hoosier state—Schuyler Colfax, Thomas Hendricks, Charles Fairbanks, Thomas Marshall, and Dan Quayle.
Schuyler Colfax (March 23, 1823 – January 13, 1885) served as vice president from March 4, 1869 to March 4, 1873; served with President Ulysses Grant. He was 61 when he died.
Schuler Colfax is buried in the City Cemetery at South Bend, Indiana under a tall white marble gravestone. At one time it had a small angel on top of the column but it is now missing. There is a small bronze marker with the following inscription:
VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
1869 TO 1873
STATESMAN AND BELOVED CITIZEN
SOUTH BEND POST 50 AMERICAN LEGION
ACKNOWLEDGES THE SERVICE
HE RENDERED TO HIS COUNTY.
Thomas Andrews Hendricks (September 7, 1819 – November 25, 1885) served as vice president from March 4, 1885 to November 25, 1885; served with President Grover Cleveland. He was 66 when he died.
Hendricks has a soaring gray granite octagon-shaped column resting on a ornamented plinth in the Crown Hill Cemetery at Indianapolis, Indiana. The monument has the following inscription:
BORN SEPTEMBER 7, 1819
DIED NOVEMBER 25, 1885
BORN NOVEMBER 23, 1823
DIED NOVEMBER 3, 1903
Charles Warren Fairbanks (May 11, 1852 – June 4, 1918– January 13, 1885) served as vice president from March 4, 1905 to March 4, 1909; served with President Theodore Roosevelt. He was 66 when he died. Fairbanks is buried in the Crown Hill Cemetery at Indianapolis.
The Fairbanks monument in the Crown Hill Cemetery at Indianapolis, Indiana is designed in of the Ionic order, one of the three organizational systems of Greek architectural design. The Ionic order is characterized by the use of a capital (the top of the column) that uses volutes, a spiral scroll-like ornamentation. The Ionic columns are slender and fluted and the monument is topped with an acroterion motif–a stylized palm leaf that can be found on classical Roman and Greek architecture. His monument lists his and his wife’s accomplishments:
CHARLES WARREN FAIRBANKS
U. S. SENATE 1897 – 1905
VICE PRESIDENT THE UNITED
1905 – 1909
CORNELIA COLE FAIRBANKS
D. A. R.
1901 — 1905
Thomas Riley Marshall (March 14, 1854 – June 1, 1925) served as vice president from March 4, 1913 to March 4, 1921; served with President Woodrow Wilson. He was 71 when he died.
Marshall and his wife, Lois Irene Kimsey, 1873 – 1958, are both buried at the Cown Hill Cemetery at Indianapolis, Indiana, in a light gray limestone mausoleum.
Dan Quayle (February 4, 1947 – ) served as vice president from January 20, 1989 to January 20, 1993; served with President George W. H. Bush. Dan Quayle is alive and well.
Only 14 of the 47 men to serve as Vice President have become president, five by election. John Tyler was the first to ascend to the presidency upon the death of a president. He was derisively referred to as “His Accidency.” Seven other men became president under the same circumstances—Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, and Lyndon Johnson. As Will Rogers said, “The person with the best job in the country is the vice president. All he has to do is get up every morning and say, ‘How is the president?’” Gerald Ford became president when Richard Nixon resigned the presidency.
It’s entries like this one that reminds me of just how much I don’t know…Vice Presidents have surely been off my radar of historical background! Thank you for this posting!