Myth Trivia: Washington to Carter – More presidential firsts

Ulysses S. Grant was the first candidate to ever run against a woman for president when Virginia Woodhull became the nominee of the Equal Rights Party in 1872.

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Victoria Woodhull, the "Bewitching Broker," and the real first woman candidate for President of the United States in 1872. (Collage assembled from public domain imagery)

CHARLOTTE, N.C., May 17, 2017 – If at first you don’t succeed, or even if you do, you can always try again. Last week Myth Trivia produced a list of presidential firsts. Since then, we have uncovered even more commander-in-chief first-time accomplishments.

1. Gerald Ford: Upon the resignation of President Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford became the first and only Eagle Scout to become president of the United States. Ford had earned the rank of Eagle Scout back in 1927.

Many decades later in 1970, Ford was again honored as a Distinguished Eagle Scout. While speaking at the Annual Boy Scouts Award Dinner in 1974, Ford had this to say:

It has recently been said that I am too much of a Boy Scout in the way I have conducted myself as President, and so I reviewed the Boy Scout laws and Boy Scout oath.
“They say that a Scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent. That is not bad for somebody who knew it 46 years ago.”
“Well, if these are not the goals of the people of the United States, what they want their President to live up to, then I must draw this conclusion: Either you have the wrong man or I have the wrong country, and I don’t believe either is so.”

Well said, Mr. President.


2. George Washington: Obviously George Washington scored his most notable first first by becoming the first President of the United States. Thus, the first portrait of a sitting president was also an image of Washington. The painting was done by John Ramage of New York, a former loyalist who fought against Washington’s army in the Revolutionary War.

Are you Republicans and Democrats in Washington today paying any attention?

Washington’s first draft of his first Inaugural Address was 70 pages long. When it came time for his first Second Inaugural address, James Madison did some editing, reducing the ensuing speech to just two paragraphs totaling 138 words. It remains today the shortest inaugural speech of any president.

One other interesting fact about George Washington is that he is the only president to have been inaugurated in two cities, and neither was the town that now bears his name. The first inaugural was delivered in New York City and the second in Philadelphia.

For the record, the nation’s capital didn’t move to Washington, D.C. until 1800.

3. Jimmy Carter: A couple of interesting bits about president #39, Jimmy Carter. Neither is especially surprising, but both are enjoyable because they touch upon the “fascination factor” that no one ever thinks about.

In recent years, some of our presidents have not done military service. Not so Jimmy Carter. He is the only president to have attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD.

Another interesting first: Born at the Wise Sanitarium in 1924 in the small town of Plains, GA, Carter was the first president ever to have been born in a hospital. Though small, and only three years old at the time of Carter’s birth, that hospital was so innovative for its day that it quickly built a reputation as “the Mayo Clinic of the South.”

The first location of Wise Sanitarium was on the second floor of a building that housed the Plains Pharmacy on the street level. That particular hospital opened in 1912 with 15 beds. But by 1917 it had expanded to 20 beds on the second floor of the A.C. Wellons Building on Main Street.

In 1921, the current building, which still functions today, tripled the number of beds to 60, opened an operating room and equipped an X-ray room. In a sign of the times, black patients were treated at the rear of the main building.

The rest is history, as Carter has been working for peanuts ever since.

4. Ulysses S. Grant: As always, we save the best for last as we move inevitably into the realm of political correctness. Some people like to say the Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman to run for a major office in a presidential race.

Indeed, Ferraro was the first female to run for vice president for a major party when she joined Walter Mondale’s ticket in 1984. However, Ulysses S. Grant was the first candidate to ever run against a woman for president when Virginia Woodhull became the nominee of the Equal Rights Party in 1872. That milestone occurred some 112 years before Ferraro’s candidacy.

As so often happens with trivia however, there is a twist. Some historians disagree with the legality of Woodhull’s efforts because she was not 35 or older at the time of her campaign. The Constitution mandates that candidates be 35 or older to be eligible but Woodhull did not become legally “of age” until September of 1873.

True to their reputation, which continues into the 21st century, most newspapers of the day ignored the age element because they did not believe it to be a significant issue.

The Constitution be damned!

About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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