CHARLOTTE, N.C., Feb. 18, 2016 – This story fits in the “You Just Never Know” category, but it is so jaw dropping amazing and coincidental that it has to be told.
In a recent trivia column for Communities Digital News we related the story of President John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States, and the amazing fact that he still has two living grandchildren. Not great- great-grandchildren or even great-grandchildren but two living grandchildren.
Given that President John Tyler was born in 1790, that fact alone is astounding, but there is more.
Consider, for example, that Tyler was born during the first term of George Washington’s presidency. In other words, the living link between the man whose portrait graces the one-dollar bill and Barack Obama, the 44th president, is separated by only two generations.
Lyon Tyler Jr. was born on Jan. 25, 1925 in Richmond, Virginia. His brother, Harrison, was born in 1928. Both are still living, thus creating a unique bridge to America’s history. Those facts alone would be candidate’s “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” or “The Guinness Book of World Records” except there is still more to the story.
Oddly enough, John Tyler was never elected president. He assumed the office in April of 1841 when William Henry Harrison died 32 days after the inauguration. As Harrison’s running mate for the Whig party, Tyler became the first vice president to succeed a sitting president and served almost a full term between 1841 and 1845.
Tyler died in 1862 at the age of 72 and, during his life, he had 15 children by two wives. It was Tyler’s 13th child, Lyon, who fathered Tyler’s two living 21st century descendants. Lyon the elder, who was born in 1853 and died in 1935, had six children of his own, also by two wives, and it is Lyon Jr. and Harrison who survive him.
Each day throughout the United States, and around the world for that matter, there are tiny groups of men who gather in the morning for coffee and breakfast to discuss politics, tell off-color jokes, bemoan the losses of their favorite sports teams and basically solve the world’s problems within roughly two hours.
Charlotte is no different, and its group of ROMEOs, an acronym for “Retired Old Men Eating Out,” has been congregating for more than 40 years. The size of the group and its participants have changed over four decades, but the discussions remain the same and the problems are still unresolved.
During the course of the morning conversation today, the John Tyler trivia story seeped into the discussion. Suddenly one of the group members, Dr. Garry Baldwin, the senior minister at Midwood Baptist Church in Charlotte, raised his eyebrows and exclaimed, “Lyon Tyler! I know him. He was my history teacher during the ’70s when I was a student at the Citadel!”
Suddenly the amazing story from the previous day had taken an even more incredible twist. True enough, Lyon Tyler Jr. taught history for 20 years at the University of Richmond, Virginia Military Institute and the Citadel.
Tyler got his doctorate in history from Duke University in 1967 with a dissertation about civil defense following World War II.
“Yes,” said Garry, “I told my wife that story and she didn’t believe me, but it’s true. In fact, one day we were visiting Old Salem and just strolling down the street and up came Lyon Tyler walking directly toward us. My wife couldn’t believe it. And the amazing thing is that there was no mistaking the resemblance to President Tyler. Lyon has the same nose and distinctive chin. He looks just like his grandfather!”
“Who’d a thunk it?” From an ordinary, yet remarkable tidbit of fascinating American history, to a direct link to that very same story in a matter of a few short hours.
“You just never know.” Or as commentator Paul Harvey used to say, “And that’s the rest of the story.”
Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award-winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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