Ranked #31: Garfield spent just 100 days in office before he was shot by a deranged man who was seeking a job in his adminstration. There was plenty of potential however as president he was untested. Simply put, he did no harm.
Summary: I would say without a doubt that Garfield was an exceptional man. He had so much potential, and if you consider where he came from, it is amazing that he eventually became President. As a child, his family was desperately poor.
Bio: When he was a young man, his mother sent him off with all the money she had - enough for a semester at college. He remarkably was able to obtain a job as a janitor at Hiram College to continue his studies and within a matter of three years was eventually asked to teach classes. He studied Greek and Latin and, being ambidextrous, would entertain friends by responding to a single question by writing the answer in Latin with one hand while simultaneously writing it in Greek with the other. He would go on to study law on his own and pass the Ohio Bar exams.
As an adult, he was a good natured, sociable and charming. He was the type of guy that would give you a hug. He was a very compelling and convincing speaker. He was an extremely ambitious man, yet he did very little to promote his own cause. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, chess and cards. He played billiards regularly. He was always a reader and found comfort in the novels of Jane Austin.
He became a Major General while serving in the Civil War between 1861 and 1863. He then entered politics and was elected to the US House of Representatives nine times between 1863 and 1880. By the time 1880 came along, the GOP was set to nominate Ulysses Grant as their candidate. However, the convention became deadlocked and on the 36th ballot, Garfield came out of nowhere to win the nomination. Then, in the general election, Garfield won a clear victory.
Garfield was barely in office for 4 months when his life changed drastically in a matter of moments. While on his way to board a train, he was shot in the back by a man who was best described as a lunatic. Charles Guiteau was seeking a consulship in the city of Paris. In 1880, just about anybody could enter the White House and have a meeting with the President. In fact Garfield spent much of his short time in office meeting with such people. Guiteau was there so often that it got to the point where he was asked to never return. Eventually, Guiteau decided that his only option was to kill Garfield for not granting him a position. Actually realizing the weight of what he was about to do, he bought a .44 British Bulldog pistol, specifically because he thought it would look impressive in a museum. He also visited a prison beforehand to check out what kind of place he was going to end up after he had shot the President.
Meanwhile, Garfield could likely have survived his injury had it not been for his doctors. Two bullets were fired. One grazed his left arm and the other lodged in his back. Almost immediately, doctors probed their dirty fingers into him to locate the bullet on the filthy floor of the train station. Eventually, they got him back to the White House. In 1880, the concept of infection was not something the mainstream medical community embraced. So, over the the next months and weeks, Garfield was further probed with un-sanitized instruments in attempts to locate the bullet. Garfield was awake and alert for most of this and experienced constant excruciating pain.
He was eventually taken to the New Jersey shore where he died of blood poisoning.
Pros: Fought bravely in the Civil War. Supported government reform.
Cons: Only spent six months in office, rwo of which he was slowly dying of gunshot wound. Really unlucky.
Born: November 19, 1831, Orange Township, Cuyahoga County, Ohio
Died: September 19, 1881 (aged 49) Elberon, New Jersey
Term: March 4, 1881 to September 19, 1881 (assassinated during 1st term)
Political Party: Republican
Religion: Disciples of Christ
Education: Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (now Hiram College), Williams College (graduated 1856)