We know, there’s a term system of leadership in every country’s politics. Different from country to country, there are some that have only one term while some have two and so on. However, we will not be talking about the term system or who’s who things here in this post, but of those shortest-lived presidents in the history of mankind. Yes, there are a lot of leaders who completed either one full term or even two. But there are also leaders who couldn’t run the office, let alone two terms, even for a couple of months. Find below 10 of the presidents who failed to complete even one full term in office.
A 200-day term seems like a lifetime compared to the month completed by 9th president of the United States, William Henry Harrison. He became ill with pneumonia shortly after he took the office in 1841, and it was believed it was because he had delivered his 8,445-word inaugural address in the rain without a coat. He died on April 4th 1841, after 30 days, 12 hours and 30 minutes in office.
President James A. Garfield spent almost as much time dying as he had spent actively running the country. He had only been in power for 120 days on July 2, 1881 when he was shot. One of the bullets remained lodged inside his body, and his doctor’s repeated attempts at finding it, often putting unsterilized hands into the wound, caused infections that led to his death in September. By the time he died, he had completed a term of just 200 days.
The 12th President of the United States, Zachary Taylor took the presidency in 1849 after a 40-year military career. However, he died after one year, four months and five days in office. It was said that the cause of death was a stomach-related illness, apparently after he ate cherries and iced-milk at a 4th of July celebration at the part-constructed Washington Monument. His doctors diagnosed a type of cholera but could not save him and he died on July 9, 1850. Rumors that he was assassinated by pro-slavery forces persist to this day.
Warren Gamaliel Harding was the 29th President of the United States, serving from March 4, 1921 until his death. It was said that many of his policies were quite progressive – he condemned lynchings, supported suffrage and also implemented an 8-hour working day for miners and railroad workers. However, there were a number of scandals during his time and his government was full of his friends, who abused their power. It was also said that Harding wanted to run for a second term but his health deteriorated during a tour of Canada and he died suddenly on August 2, 1923 in San Francisco. He was two years, four months and thirty days into his presidency when he died.
Gerald Ford was the 38th President of the United States from 1974 to 1977. He got his chance at the top job after Nixon resigned in 1974. His short tenure saw American withdrawal from Vietnam, the worst economy since the Depression and the pardoning of Nixon for Watergate. He was entirely unelected, and on becoming president, he claimed the distinction as the first and to date the only person to have served as both Vice President and President of the United States without being elected to either office. However, he has the distinction of being the shortest-serving president to not die in office, despite two attempts on his life. He was in office for two years, five months and twelve days.
Millard Fillmore was the 13th President of the United States, the last Whig president, and the last president not to be affiliated with either the Democratic or Republican parties. He took the presidency in 1850 after Zachary Taylor’s death. Fillmore’s controversial support of the Compromise Bill, that was passed, in five parts, including making California a free state and the Fugitive Slave Act, which decreed that all runaway slaves be returned to their masters, made him unpopular with the Whigs, and he failed to receive a nomination in the 1852 election, bringing his presidency to a close after just two years, seven months and 24 days.
John F. Kennedy was the 35th President of the United States from January 1961 until his assassination in 1963. The young president was popular and expected to have a long run in office. However, those expectations were destroyed by Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22nd. Kennedy was just two years, ten months and five days into his first term and was only 46 at the time of his death. The most famous assassination of all time did also lead to one of the shortest presidencies of all time.
Chester A. Arthur was the 21st President of the United States. He succeeded James A. Garfield upon the latter’s assassination. Garfield was shot in July 1881, however, he didn’t actually die until September 19th. By the end of Garfield’s term, Arthur was suffering with Bright’s Disease and his health was failing. He died the year after leaving office. He was in office from September 19, 1881 – March 4, 1885.
Stepping into the role to complete the term of someone else who’s been assassinated seems to pretty much guarantee you won’t be there long enough too. That was the fate of the 17th President of the United States, Andrew Johnson, who took over after Lincoln’s death in 1865. He was in office for three years, ten months and 21 days. He was meant to die the same night as Lincoln, as part of the same plot, but his would-be assassin George Atzerodt got drunk and didn’t even try to kill him.
After William Henry Harrison’s death, John Tyler became the 10th President of the United States in 1841. He was never that popular and fell out with the party that elected him, the Whigs, as well as his own party, the Democrats. Towards the end of his presidency, he attempted to form a new party – the Democratic-Republicans – but that didn’t increase his popularity, and he dropped out of the race in favor of his eventual successor James K. Polk. He was in office for three years, eleven months and one day.