The assassination of President Garfield (1831 - 1881) by Charles Guiteau. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)
The assassination of President Garfield (1831 - 1881) by Charles Guiteau. (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)

We usually think of presidents in terms of four years. In fact we have a Constitutional Amendment that limits presidents to only eight years after Franklin Roosevelt died during his third term as president.

He was president for 12 years from March 4, 1933 to his death on April 12, 1945.

I guess people thought we might keep electing the same politicians forever.

But you probably didn’t know that there have been years where three people held the White House in the same year — and it actually happened twice.

Three Presidents in 1841

Martin Van Buren was the 8th president and his term expired on March 4, 1841.

He was followed by William Henry Harrison, the 9th president, who died in office almost a month to the day later on April 4, 1841 of Enteric Fever.

The misdiagnosis is that Harrison insisted on not wearing a coat, hat, or gloves while giving the longest inauguration speech in history (over 3,000 words) in a frigid freezing damp day and died of pneumonia.

He served the shortest presidency on record of just over one month.

John Tyler who held the White House until March 4, 1845 followed Harrison.

Three Presidents in 1881

Just 40 short years later the three-president event repeated. A one term Republican Rutherford B. Hayes left office and James A. Garfield was at the helm as the 20th president.

Until Charles Guiteau shot Garfield for not giving him a political appointment on July 2, 1881.

Garfield survived his wounds to the back and abdomen for a few months and it was thought he might recover completely by September.

But one of the bullets had caused an aneurism that ended his life on September 19, 1881.

The following day, Chester A. Arthur was sworn in as the 21st president.

Some Final Thoughts

Four presidents died while serving as president, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Warren G. Harding and Franklin Roosevelt.

Four sitting presidents were assassinated, Abraham Lincoln, James A. Garfield, William McKinley and John F. Kennedy. Each president who died in office was elected in a year ending in zero beginning with Lincoln elected in 1860 and ending with Kennedy in 1960.

Ronald Reagan was elected in 1980, and was shot, but survived the curse, if you want to call it that, which ended at 100 years.

Richard Nixon is the lone president who resigned from office being replaced by then Vice President Gerald R. Ford.

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