August 3, 1923: Calvin Coolidge takes oath of office after Harding’s death
In 1920, Warren G. Harding won the U.S. presidential election by a landslide. His running mate, Calvin Coolidge, shared in that victory and enjoyed his cushy, if undemanding, new job as Vice President.
That all changed on August 2, 1923, when President Harding died suddenly of a heart attack in a San Francisco hotel room. Coolidge was at his family home in Vermont, which lacked electricity and telephone, and received word via messenger many hours later. He was sworn in that same night by his father, a notary public.
Calvin Coolidge early life
John Calvin Coolidge Jr. was born on July 4, 1872, in Plymouth, Vermont. As a child, he was no stranger to politics: His father held several offices, including in the Vermont House of Representatives and the state Senate, and his grandfather also served in the Vermont House.
In 1985, Coolidge graduated from Amherst College with honors. He was a member of the Republican Club and gained a reputation on campus for his public speaking skills. Shortly after, he moved to Northampton, Massachusetts to become a lawyer.
Somewhere around 1900, Coolidge won a spot on the Northampton City Council. From there, his involvement continued to grow. In 1903, he was appointed County Clerk. In 1904, chairman of local Republican Party organization. In 1907, he was elected to the state legislature. And in 1912, he was elected to the Massachusetts state senate. The list of his offices held is long: In fact, the only race he ever lost was an early bid for a seat on the local school board.
Vice Presidency and Presidency
In 1920, Coolidge made it onto the Republican ticket as Warren G. Harding’s running mate. They won an astounding victory. Although an incredibly popular president, Harding’s office was also plagued by dogged rumors of scandal and corruption.
It was at the height of this turmoil that Harding died of a heart attack. Coolidge, after assuming office in the middle of the night, headed to Washington the next morning. His mission? Regain the trust of the American Public. He must have done a good job because, in 1924, he easily won reelection.
President Calvin Coolidge died in 1933 when he collapsed in his bedroom at home. He was 60 years old.