Happy Inauguration Day! Since I’ve lived in Indiana for all except two years of my life, I thought it would be fun to celebrate by looking at all the Hoosier Vice Presidents we’ve had. Why not Presidents? Well, no Presidents were born in Indiana. William Henry Harrison, 9th President of the United States, served as Indiana Territorial Governor, but he was born in Virginia.
His grandson, Benjamin Harrison, was an Indiana Senator and lived and worked in Indiana for much of his life, but he was born in Ohio.
Hoosier Vice Presidents
When it comes to Vice Presidents, though, Indiana fares much better. It’s been called the mother of vice presidents, with 6. Only New York, with 11, has had more. Let’s look at the men from Indiana who have held the office.
Schuyler Colfax Jr
Okay, right off the bat I’m a little confused here. Because, although numerous sites list Schuyler Colfax as Indiana’s first Veep, he clearly was born in New York City. He moved to Indiana at 13. Hmmmm. In listing him as a Hoosier VP, am I purveying “fake news”??? I certainly hope not! It appears that most sites list an office-holder’s state of “primary affiliation” rather than their actual birthplace. So, according to that, perhaps Indiana can claim a couple of Presidents? History is rarely black and white. Here’s a little of his story, and you decide whether or not to consider Colfax a Hoosier.
Colfax moved to New Carlisle with his family when he was 13. He was elected to Congress and married, although sadly his wife died young and the couple had no children. Ulysses S. Grant chose Colfax, a Republican, as his veep candidate, in part because Grant had no political experience and Colfax did (sounds similar to Trump and Pence). Colfax married his second wife just two weeks after he and Grant won their election.
His death at age 61 is a sad story. Heading to Iowa for a speaking engagement and left at a stop 3/4 mile from his next train, Colfax decided to walk to the next station, despite -30 degree temperatures. When he reached the station, he looked at a map, sat down, and died. No one knew his illustrious identity until they searched his pockets and found a letter bearing his name.
Thomas Hendricks was born — no, I’m not making this up — in Ohio. He moved to Shelby County, Indiana, with his family when he was seven and later graduated from Indiana’s Hanover College. A lifelong Democrat, Hendricks ran as the VP candidate in 1876, but his ticket lost the election by a single electoral vote. He was the Democratic VP candidate again in 1884, running (and winning) with Grover Cleveland.
Hendricks was already in poor health at the time of the 1884 election, and he ended up serving only eight months before dying in office. It’s interesting to note that his VP position was not filled for the next four years.
Given the first two “Hoosier” VP’s we’ve looked at, it will probably come as no surprise to you that Charles Fairbanks was born in — yep — Ohio. He moved to Indianapolis in his 20s, where he worked in business. He became a Republican Senator for eight years, and was elected VP to Theodore Roosevelt. Interestingly, Fairbanks (a conservative) actively worked against Roosevelt’s “Square Deal” program, which he saw as progressive. Quite a change from today, when veeps are pretty much expected to back up the President!
Fairbanks, Alaska, takes its name from him. He served on a commission during his Senate years which dealt with issues concerning the Canada/Alaska border. He worked to ensure that Alaska would not have to give up any of its territory to Canada.
About a decade later, Fairbanks ran again for VP, with Republican Charles Evans Hughes. They were defeated by Woodrow Wilson in a close election, and he died two years later, in 1918. And guess who Wilson’s Vice President was? That takes us to our next Hoosier VP —
Thomas Riley Marshall
Thomas Riley Marshall was born — can you believe it? — in North Manchester, Indiana!! The family moved several times, and his attendance at the Lincoln/Douglas debate in 1858 (even sitting on the laps of both) is one of Thomas’s favorite childhood memories. He practiced law in Columbia City (where my girls participate in the 4-H fair each year). Marshall became an alcoholic, and after he stopped drinking with his wife’s help, he became active in the temperance movement.
The Democrat was elected Governor of Indiana in 1909, and Vice President under President Woodrow Wilson in 1913. When Wilson suffered a incapacitating stroke in 1919, Wilson’s wife and advisers kept Marshall in the dark about his condition because they disliked Marshall and didn’t want him to be in charge.
While he didn’t originate the phrase, he was known for frequently saying, “What this country needs is a really good five-cent cigar.” Marshall once quipped that Indiana is known as “the mother of vice presidents, because it is home of more second-class men than any other state.” He died of a heart attack in 1925.
James Danforth Quayle
James Danforth Quayle, known as Dan, was born in Indianapolis in 1947. He graduated from Huntington High School and later from DePauw and IU with a law degree. He was elected to the US Congress and was selected by George H. W. Bush as his veep candidate in 1988. When he took the oath of office as VP, he was just 41.
I remember Quayle well. I began teaching school in Huntington County in 1989, and I took a student to a Bush/Quayle rally in the fall of 1992 at the Huntington County courthouse. Quayle spoke at the rally, and it’s still a fun memory. Nick’s Kitchen in Huntington is famous as a spot where Quayle enjoyed eating — I’ve eaten there, and it’s a fun mom-n-pop type place. Great tenderloins sandwiches and pie 🙂 Huntington also has a wonderful Vice Presidential Museum which I’ve visited several times, once meeting Quayle’s wife Marilyn there.
Quayle was mocked by the press for what they alleged to be his stupidity, but looking back, this seems to me to be the beginning of the press’s extreme bias against conservative political candidates. In real life, I know of little to show that Quayle is lacking in intelligence. Since leaving office, he and his family moved to Arizona, where he currently works with an investment firm.
Michael Richard Pence
And now, we have a new addition to the Hoosier Vice Presidents, Mike Pence. Pence was born in Indiana (in Columbus, just 15 minutes from my hometown). Pence attended Hanover College and IU where he earned a law degree. He has served as Governor of Indiana and is known for his conservative leadership which has featured tax cuts. The media, as expected, has come down hard on him for his Christian beliefs and his conservative values, but I appreciate his stands on these issues greatly. When he takes his oath of office today, he has requested to use the Reagan Family Bible, which he will open to 2 Chronicles 7:14:
“If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Indiana 9, Highway of Vice Presidents
Indiana 9 is known as “Highway of Vice Presidents” because Hendricks, Marshall, and Quayle all lived in cities along the road. Pence’s hometown is just a few miles from the southern end of the road. Now you know —
Enjoy the inauguration today! Have there been any Presidents or Vice Presidents from your home state?