Controversy Was President Warren G. Harding Murdered Part 1

About the controversy surrounding the death of President Warren G. Harding and whether or not he was murdered.




Victim: Born on Nov. 2, 1865, in what is now Blooming Grove, O., Harding at 19 joined two partners in buying the failing Marion, O., Star. Behind Harding, managing the day-to-day operations of the newspaper and unceasingly boosting the career of her big, lovable "Wurr'n," was his wife, Florence Kling DeWolfe Harding, a strong-willed, blunt, domineering matron five years older than him. They married in 1891. Harding's charm and affability won him many friends, and he soon became active in civic affairs and the local Republican party. Through machine connections he was elected state senator in 1899, lieutenant governor in 1903, and U.S. senator in 1914. A lazy legislator, Harding had one of the poorest attendance records in the Senate and introduced not a single significant bill during his six-year term. He was a gifted orator, but his speeches were filled with what Sen. William McAdoo called "pompous phrases moving over the landscape in search of an idea." His biggest asset was that he looked like a statesman. In 1920 Harding emerged as a compromise candidate for president at the deadlocked Republican Party convention in Chicago. In a smoke-filled room at the Blackstone Hotel, party bosses chose Harding, who went on to smother the Democratic nominee James M. Cox in the general election. Harding's presidency was an utter failure. His "friends," rewarded with government posts, used their office for personal enrichment in the Teapot Dome and other swindles. Only dimly aware of the enormity of the crisis, Harding set out on a cross-country "Voyage of Understanding" in June, 1923. He died suddenly in San Francisco on Aug. 2, thereby eluding disgrace and possible impeachment.

His Death: Returning south from Alaska during his trip, Harding complained of severe cramps and indigestion, a condition the President's physician, Charles Sawyer, misdiagnosed as food poisoning. The cross-country tour had exhausted him. On doctor's orders, he canceled scheduled speeches and sped on to San Francisco. There, in room 8064 on the eighth floor of the Palace Hotel, he was put to bed. On July 30 his temperature climbed to 102 deg, his pulse raced 120 beats per minute, pneumonia settled in his right lung. However, next day he rallied and by Aug. 1 he was sitting up, his temperature normal, his pulse below 100. Dr. Sawyer pronounced the crisis over. On Aug. 2 Harding's spirits continued to improve. He talked eagerly of going deep-sea fishing. That evening, alone with Mrs. Harding, he listened contentedly as his wife read him an article from The Saturday Evening Post, "A Calm View of a Calm Man," a flattering portrait of the President by Samuel Blythe. "That's good," Harding said. "Go on, read some more." Mrs. Harding finished the piece, then left the room for her own quarters across the hall. Moments later Nurse Ruth Powderly entered in the President's room with a glass of water. As she approached him his face suddenly twitched, his jaw dropped, and his head rolled to the right. The nurse called for Mrs. Harding. Mrs. Harding yelled for Dr. Joel Boone. The President was pronounced dead at about 7:30 P.M.

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