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Monday, 23 March 2015

James A. Garfield

James Abram Garfield (November 19, 1831 - September 19, 1881) was born in Orange Township, now Moreland Hills, Ohio. His father died in 1833, when James was 18-months-old. He grew up cared for by his mother and an uncle.

The 18-year-old James Garfield committed his life to Jesus Christ on March 4, 1850 when he was baptized in the icy waters of the Chagrin River by the Disciples of Christ.

Garfield graduated from Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts as an outstanding student who enjoyed all subjects except chemistry.

Garfield at age 16

Garfield  taught Greek, Latin, mathematics, history, philosophy, and rhetoric at Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, now Hiram College, in Hiram, Ohio, for the 1856-1857 academic year. He was made principal of the Institute from 1857 to 1860.

James Garfield was ambidextrous and could write Greek with one hand while simultaneously writing Latin with the other. He would sometimes entertain his friends by having them ask him questions and then writing the answers simultaneously in Latin in Greek using both hands.

James A. Garfield, contributed an original proof of the Pythagorean Theorem during a discussion with other members of Congress. It was published in the the April 1, 1876  edition of the New England Journal of Education.

He married Lucretia Rudolph on November 11, 1858. They had seven children (five sons and two daughters).

James Garfield and Lucretia Rudolph around the time of their engagement. 

One son, James Rudolph Garfield, followed him into politics and became Secretary of the Interior under President Theodore Roosevelt.

Garfield was studying law privately during his time at the Eclectic Institute. He was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1860.

Garfield was elected an Ohio state senator in 1859, serving until 1861. He was a Republican all his political life

During the Civil War, Garfield helped organize the 42nd Ohio infantry. He threw his energy into acquiring military skills and finding supplies for the men in his command.

Garfield as a brigadier general during the Civil War
A fervent Disciples of Christ lay-minister, Garfield had deep concern for his men's spiritual welfare, and spoke to each of their need for a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Garfield distinguished himself at Chickamauga, and before the war was over, rose to the rank of major general. After the war, he was elected to the United States Congress where he quickly became a major player in national politics.

When the Republicans could not agree on James G. Blaine, Ulysses S. Grant  or John Sherman, they chose Garfield as their "dark horse" presidential candidate. On November 2, 1880, James Garfield was elected the 20th president of the United States.

Eliza Garfield was the first mother to witness her son's inauguration as president of the United States.

Official White House portrait of James Garfield

James Garfield was the first president to speak on the telephone. When he talked to Alexander Graham Bell, who was at the other end of the line thirteen  miles away, he asked him to speak a little more slowly.

President James Garfield was shot at the Baltimore and Potomac train depot in Washington DC, by Charles J Guiteau on July 2, 1881, whilst preparing to leave the capital for the Fourth of July holidays. Guiteau had been offended by Garfield's rejections of his various job applications.

Garfield collapses as Secretary of State Blaine gestures for help. Engraving from Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper

Surgeons used a metal detecting machine, which Alexander Graham Bell invented to look for the bullet lodged inside him. However interference from the bed springs created havoc with the appliance and Garfield died from his wounds two and a half months later on September 19th.

Garfield had been in office from March 4 to September 19, 1881, a total of six months and fifteen days.


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