A President’s Day Tribute–OK?

Martin Van Buren (December 5, 1782 – July 24, 1862) was a very successful political figure during the early part of the 19th Century and is considered one of the founders of the Democratic Party. Van Buren was born in Kinderhook, New York, where he began his career as an attorney but became involved in politics, first at the state level as a member of the New York Senate, the 14th Attorney General of New York, US Senator of New York, and as the 9th Governor of New York.  Andrew Jackson appointed Van Buren Secretary of State in 1829, and then in 1832 he ran as Jackson’s running mate becoming the 8th Vice President of the United States. 

During Van Buren’s political career, he had many nicknames—the Sly Fox, Little Van, the Little Magician, and Old Kinderhook, a nod to his hometown.  The later became part of his campaign slogan when he ran for the presidency in his own right—”VOTE for OK.” Many have attributed the term “OK” to Van Buren, but the term was first used in an article printed in the Economist and was used as a satirical abbreviation for “Oll Korrect.”  However, Van Buren’s campaign did help to popularize the term.

Van Buren won becoming the 8th President. But, largely due to the Panic of 1837, Van Buren lost his bid for a second term.  He did run again in 1848 nominated as the candidate for both the Barnburners Party and the Free Soil Party but lost that bid, as well.  Van Buren completely retired from politics living the rest of his life in his estate, Lindenwald, in Kinderhook, New York. 

In 1862, suffering from bronchial asthma and heart failure, he died on July 24th.  He was 79 years old.  Van Buren was buried in the Kinderhook Reformed Dutch Church Cemetery where his parents are also buried.  An obelisk set on a plinth and a base made of gray granite marks the graves of Martin Van Buren, Hannah, his wife, and their son, Martin Van Buren Jr.

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