Our Presidential Heroes, or zeros, of the Heartland

By Melanie Yingst

It’s the best holiday of the year! It’s President’s Day folks!

The third Monday of February is always set aside to honor President George Washington, our nation’s first president. His birthday isn’t until Feb. 22, but who wants to wait for a great deal on mattresses until Wednesday?

Here in Ohio we can boast that we are “The Mother of Presidents” although we tie with Virginia, but she got a head start in this race.

So for one day, let’s tip our three-cornered hats to the Heroes (or zeroes) of the Heartland:

8. William Henry Harrison — Harrison was the ninth president. WHH only held office for a month after he died of pneumonia. Harrison was a big deal at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811 and was an officer in the War of 1812. You may remember the “Old Tippecanoe and Tyler, too” slogan, which put WHH in office. Well, Tyler took over for WHH 31 days after he took office. Result: Hero.

7. Ulysses S. Grant — From Point Pleasant, Grant had that commanding general vibe that people needed after the untimely assassination of President Lincoln. Our 18th president was a great leader on the battlefield, but trying to restore a nation after a civil war was an uphill battle. He had some notable victories in office and sought to “drain the swamp” of corruption during his era. Result: Hero.

6. Rutherford B. Hayes — Rutherford, oh Rutherford. (Why hasn’t this name been revived by the hipster movement?) Anyways, RBH took over from Grant as the 19th president. Hayes was wounded five times in Civil War battles so he had some war cred. When he ran for president, Hayes lost the popular vote, but won the Electoral College by one vote. Hayes was a one and done president and retired in Ohio. Result: Hero.

5. James A. Garfield — Three Ohio presidents in a row! Our nation’s 20th president was born in Moreland Hills, Ohio. Like WHH, he wasn’t president for very long when he was shot four months in his term. He later died nearly 200 days after he took office. He kept on working despite the infected bullet in his back, before dying of infection on Sept. 18, 1881. He was buried in Cleveland. He had the “rags to riches” story as a poor, fatherless boy from Cleveland who later became president, which reminds me of another famous rags to riches story out of Cleveland. Result: Hero.

4. Benjamin Harrison. Our 23rd president was the grandson of WHH. Benjamin was a controversial president, but I liked how he was part of our nation’s first forest reservations. I like trees. He also had electricity installed at the White House, but was he was too afraid of electrocution to turn the lights off. C’mon, Ben. Thomas Edison would have helped a fellow Ohioan out. Result: Zero.

3. William McKinley. The 25th president was also assassinated during his second elected term as president. He is memorialized on the $500 bill (so I’ve been told) and is interned in a tomb in Canton. He was pretty popular as president. McKinley had the nation’s tallest mountain named after him in Alaska, but they changed it back to Mount Denali in 2015. Result: Hero.

2. William Howard Taft. Taft, the 27th president, was a big, jovial bear of a guy. He is noted as being the heaviest president weighing in around 340 pounds. He was appointed as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by President Harding, the only president to hold both offices. As chief justice, Taft started walking three miles to work from his home to the Capitol to lose the weight. Result: Hero.

1. Warren G. Harding. Harding, the 29th president, had that whole Teapot Dome scandal plus some extra ladies from his hometown of Marion on the side. He also died during his presidency, the third Ohio president to die in office. His “Ohio Gang” didn’t do him any favors while he was president either. Years later, he’s still stirring up family drama. A few years ago, DNA results showed that he did father a child out of wedlock with his mistress Nan Britton. It was the Roaring ’20s after all. Result: Zero.

Well, at least we can be reminded that even our Ohio born national leaders of yesterday weren’t perfect. Who is your faovrite president? Mine is Theodore Roosevelt. His hunting tales alone would keep me entertained for hours. His kids put a pony on the elevator in the White House. He just sounds like a good time.

By Melanie Yingst

“Twin” Melanie Yingst appears weekly in the Troy Daily News.

“Twin” Melanie Yingst appears weekly in the Troy Daily News.