Due to a quirk in the calendar in the year 1849, one school of thought contends that Missourian David Rice Atchison deserves to be considered the 12th president of the United States. His “term of office” lasted just 24 hours — most of which he slept through — and took place 165 years ago today.
On Sunday, March 4, 1849, Atchison was serving as president pro tempore of the senate, then third in line for succession to the presidency. Because James K. Polk’s term ended at noon on that day and Zachary Taylor didn’t take the oath of office until noon the next day, Atchison technically may have been the chief magistrate of the land during that interim period.
Chris Taylor, executive director of the Atchison County Historical Society and the world’s smallest unofficial presidential library, offers a whimsical and educational review of Atchison’s brief administration.
Co-presented by the Truman Library Institute and made possible by grants from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Legacy Fund.