David Rice AtchisonU.S. Senator
Born: 11 August 1807
Died: 26 January 1886
Birthplace: Frogtown, Kentucky
Best known as: The senator who was "president for a day"
A United States senator from Missouri (1843-55), David Rice Atchison is a lively footnote to political history, known to trivia buffs as the man who was "president for one day." Supporters claim he was president on 4 March 1849, when newly-elected president Zachary Taylor refused to take the oath of office on a Sunday. The term of incumbent James Polk ended that day at noon, leaving the office theoretically vacant until Taylor could be sworn in on Monday. As president pro tempore of the Senate, Atchison would presumably have been next in line for the job, but in actual practice Atchison was never sworn in or assigned the presidency in any way, and Taylor took the oath without incident on March 5th. As years passed, however, Atchison's "term" became a popular bit of historical lore, and his grave marker reads "David Rice Atchison -- President of the United States for One Day." A proslavery Democrat, Atchison supported the Confederacy during the Civil War. The town of Atchison, Kansas is named for him.
Atchison, Kansas gave its name to the famous Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad company.
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