20th U.S. President: James A. Garfield

About the twentieth President of the United States James A. Garfield, his birth, death, biography, description, facts and quotes.

20th President


Born: November 19, 1831, Orange, Ohio.

Died: September 19, 1881, Elberon, N.J. The President had been shot 2 1/2 months before, and in the last stages of his long struggle for life he asked that he be moved from Washington to enjoy the sea air of the New Jersey resort.

Career: Williams College (graduated 1st in his class), professor of Latin and Greek at Ohio's Hiram College, lay minister and evangelist, State senator, general in the Civil War, 8 terms in U.S. House of Representatives.

Personal Life: Garfield's wife Lucretia shared his passion for classical literature and his commitment to the Disciples of Christ--a devout sect opposed to both war and slavery. A scholarly woman most often described as plain, Lucretia personally instructed her children in Latin and designed the family mansion. The Garfields enjoyed a stable, satisfying marriage, despite the constant presence of Garfield's mother. She accompanied them everywhere--even to the White House.

His Person: An even 6' tall, broad shoulders, athletic build. Bright blue eyes, ruddy complexion, brown hair going gray at the temples.

Election: As the compromise choice of the Republican convention, Garfield faced Democrat Winfield Hancock--a 250-lb. Civil War hero--in the election of 1880. The popular vote was remarkably close--4,454,416 for Garfield, to Hancock's 4,444,952. Garfield's 214 to 155 margin in the Electoral College was more decisive.

Term of Office: March 4, 1881-September 19, 1881 (199 days). Garfield was the 2nd President to die from an assassin's bullet.

Little-Known Facts: Garfield was the 1st President who was left-handed. Garfield may have had a premonition of his own death. Two days before he was shot he sent for Robert Lincoln, the son of the late President, and asked him to recount all his memories of the assassination of his famous father. Lincoln talked for more than an hour while the President listened intently.

Quote from Garfield:

"My God! What is there in this place that a man should ever want to get into it?"

Quote about Him:

"How could anybody be so cold-hearted as to want to kill my baby?"--Garfield's mother

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