Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008

William Rufus King

King's inclusion on this list stems not from scandal or blatant incompetence, but from the fact that the poor guy was only vice president for six weeks before he died of tuberculosis. A foppish dresser who wore powdered wigs long after they were fashionable, King carved out a distinguished career in the Senate, where he represented Alabama following its admission to the Union in 1819. The nation's only bachelor vice president, King lived with James Buchanan, the nation's only bachelor president, for more than a decade (they were nicknamed the "Siamese Twins.") Elected vice president in 1852, King departed for Cuba the following year in the hopes that the climate might ease his rapidly deteriorating health. Sworn into office on March 24, 1853 near Havana — he remains the only vice president to assume office outside the United States — King returned to his Alabama plantation on April 17 and died the next day. The office remained vacant until 1857.

Gilbert Cruz