11 Actually Not Boring Vice Presidents (Photos)

The VP job may be fairly dull, but it’s been occupied by plenty of characters


Mike Pence and Tim Kaine are running for a job some people find boring. But some of the people who have held it are fascinating, including the following 11 veeps.

Aaron Burr (1801-1805)Burr became the first (but not last) sitting vice president to shoot someone. He killed political rival and future Broadway inspiration Alexander Hamilton in an 1804 duel in New Jersey. After he left office, Burr embarked on an ill-fated  — and financially ruinous — venture in the Western frontier.

John C. Calhoun (1825-1832)Calhoun served under both John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, strongly advocating for slavery and a limited federal government. He resigned while a lame duck at the end of 1832 — Martin Van Buren was set to assume the role — in order to become a senator representing South Carolina.

Martin Van Buren (1833-1837)Van Buren became Jackson’s VP after winning a political struggle with Calhoun. Calhoun initially sought to block him from a ministerial position and end his political career, but that only made Van Buren more sympathetic. Van Buren proved his talents as a wheeler and dealer during his vice presidency, famously defusing a contentious argument with lion of the Senate Henry Clay by asking for a pinch from Clay’s snuff box.

John Tyler (1841)Tyler had one of the shortest VP reigns in history — he became president after William Henry Harrison died from pneumonia he contracted while delivering a two-hour inaugural address in freezing weather.

John Breckinridge (1857-1861)Breckinridge became the youngest-ever vice president, assuming the office at just 36 years of age. He became a senator after the election of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first-ever member of that body to be convicted of treason, after he joined the Confederate Army.

Andrew Johnson (1865)Johnson also had a short VP run, acceding to the office when Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theater. Johnson was a Democrat who ran with Republican Lincoln on a unity ticket, and he proved to be one of the worst presidents ever. Johnson fought against rights newly won by African-Americans and was impeached — but not removed from office — in 1868.

John Nance Garner (1933-1941)One of America’s most colorfully nicknamed elected officials, conservative Democrat “Cactus Jack” cut a deal with Franklin D. Roosevelt that delivered FDR the Democratic nomination. However, Garner had little use for the VP spot he assumed, calling it “not worth a bucket of warm piss.” Apparently ungrateful for the job, Garner ran against FDR in 1940, getting only 61 votes at the convention. He retired from public life the next year, and Roosevelt became the only president to get elected to a third term. (And then a fourth.)

Henry A. Wallace (1941-1945)Wallace, a firebrand New Dealer, replaced Garner and served as FDR’s running mate for his third term. The delegates at the party convention initially booed his nomination, but Roosevelt rolled to the presidency in an Electoral College rout. However, Wallace’s outspoken liberalism and feuds with other Cabinet members made Wallace a one-term VP; he was replaced by Harry Truman in 1945. FDR gave Wallace a consolation prize, naming him Commerce Secretary and making Wallace the last former VP to serve in the Cabinet.

Spiro Agnew (1969-1973)Nixon’s first VP was famous for his alliterative insults, such as “nattering nabobs of negativism.” However, he quickly lost the respect of his chief executive and became the first vice president since Calhoun to resign the office, subsequently pleading no contest to tax evasion, part of a resolution to bribery allegations. Agnew and Nixon did not speak from the time he resigned until Nixon’s death.

Dan Quayle (1989-1993)George H.W. Bush’s running mate was not the most articulate VP — he was widely mocked for his malapropisms, suffered perhaps the worst insult in debate history and once (incorrectly) fixed a student’s spelling of “potato” to”potatoe.” Quayle also got in a feud with fictional TV character Murphy Brown.

Dick Cheney (2001-2009)The man who many believe was the shadow operator behind the presidency of George W. Bush joined Aaron Burr as one of the vice presidents who shot someone else while in office. Cheney shot attorney Harry Whittington in the face during a 2006 quail hunt, which both men deemed an accident. He was also instrumental in providing justification for the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq.
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