Tuesday, Mar. 10, 2009

Rutherford B. Hayes

19th President, 1877-81

A Republican presidential candidate loses the popular vote in a disputed election but wins the White House after months of partisan wrangling. It's not a lie — history does repeat itself. Rutherford B. Hayes squeaked into office thanks only to a congressional commission's narrow vote. If you thought George W. Bush had enemies, consider this: Hayes' official Inauguration was secretly held inside the White House, for fear of the trouble his opponents might stir up.

A former Ohio Representative and governor, Hayes scored points from good-government types for appointing Cabinet members regardless of political ties, though his reputation took a hit after he called in federal troops to squash widespread railroad strikes in 1877. The troops opened fire on workers and killed dozens.

First Lady Lucy Hayes, a temperance supporter, became known as "Lemonade Lucy" after banning liquor from the White House. But on the other end of the fun spectrum, President Hayes began the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, which continues each spring. And for this, we remember him.

By Randy James