American history records that we have had 43 Presidents of the United States.
What is often NOT recorded is how six Vice Presidents came so close to the Presidency, but circumstances prevented them from doing so.
Three situations involved the timing of the death of the President; while two involved the fortune of two attempted Presidential assassinations failing to succeed; and one involved a Vice President being forced from office before the President in office resigned in disgrace.
Imagine if any of the following Vice Presidents had become President, how it would have changed history!
Hannibal Hamlin was the first term Vice President under Abraham Lincoln from 1861-1865, and then was replaced on the electoral ticket by Andrew Johnson. Six weeks after Hamlin left the Vice Presidency, Johnson became President, upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and is seen by many as a true disaster, possibly the worst President in American history, and in any case facing an unsuccessful impeachment in office which he survived. One might imagine that Hamlin, a former Senator from Maine, would have, somehow, avoided the fate of Andrew Johnson and dealt with Southern Reconstruction in a different way that would have affected the nation long term.
Garret Hobart was Vice President in the first term of William McKInley, but died in office in November 1899, after about two years, eight and a half months in office. He had been a leader in the New Jersey state legislature, and was considered to have added to the Vice Presidency by his regular presiding of the US Senate, his being considered a Presidential adviser, and his being often called an “assistant President”, a new term at the time. Had he not died in office, he would have been on the ticket with President McKinley in 1900, and would have succeeded McKinley as President when McKinley was assassinated in September 1901. Instead, Theodore Roosevelt became President, and changed the course of American history in massive ways, and ushered in the Progressive Era!
John Nance Garner had had a long career in the US House of Representatives, and was Speaker of the House, when chosen by Franklin D. Roosevelt to be his Vice President in the 1932 Presidential Election. As President-Elect, FDR was subjected to an assassination attempt in Miami, Florida, on February 15, 1933, just 17 days before the inauguration. Fortunately, the assassin’s bullets did not hit FDR, but instead Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak, and FDR was spared. Otherwise, Garner would have become President on March 4, 1933, but with his conservative and southern (Texas) heritage, it is highly doubtful that the New Deal would have occurred, denying us the most important and greatest President of the 20th century, and making one wonder how America would have dealt with the Great Depression.
During FDR’s third term as President, Henry A. Wallace, formerly Secretary of Agriculure, became his Vice President, and actively pursued the issue of civil rights, and also the issue of relations with our World War II ally, the Soviet Union. He alienated conservatives and Southerners in the Democratic Party, and when FDR decided to run for a fourth term, he replaced Wallace with Harry Truman, who became President 82 days after the fourth term began with FDR’s death, and changed the course of history. One has to wonder how Wallace would have conducted himself as President, particularly since he was highly critical of Truman’s Cold War policy toward the Soviet Union after World War II.
Spiro Agnew was Vice President for four and a half years under Richard Nixon from 1969-1973, and was loyal to Nixon, making himself controversial as he attacked liberals and the news media in Nixon’s behalf. But Agnew was forced out by personal financial corruption in the office of the Vice Presidency, as well as revelations about earlier such corruption in the office of the Maryland Governor and Baltimore County Executive in his years in public office before the Vice Presidency. Nixon, himself under attack in the Watergate scandal, did nothing to support Agnew, and Agnew resigned. Had this corruption not been revealed, Agnew would have become President upon the resignation of Richard Nixon on August 9, 1974. Instead, we had the Presidency of Gerald Ford for two years, five and a half months, after Ford had been a member of the US House of Representatives from Michigan, and Minority Leader of the House for almost nine years, with only a goal of someday being Speaker of the House.
When Gerald Ford was President, he chose Nelson Rockefeller , former Governor of New York and three time Presidential aspirant, as his appointed Vice President under the 25th Amendment. Then, Ford was subjected to TWO assassination attempts in Sacramento and San Francisco, California, seventeen days apart in September 1975. Both assassins missed the President, but had either been successful, Rockefeller would finally have achieved what he wanted the most, the Presidency of the United States.
So imagine how Hamlin, Hobart, Garner, Wallace, Agnew and Rockefeller MIGHT have changed the course of American history has they become President–instead of Andrew Johnson, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and Gerald Ford!