Rutherford Birchard Hayes (October 4, 1822–January 17, 1893) was the 19th President of the United States (March 4, 1877–March 4, 1881) who brought post-Civil War Reconstruction to an end in the South and tried to establish new standards of official integrity after eight years of corruption in Washington, D.C. He was the only president to hold office by decision of an extraordinary commission of congressmen and Supreme Court justices appointed to rule on contested electoral ballots.
Rutherford Birchard Hayes was born in 1822 in Delaware, Ohio, near Columbus. His father died several months before he was born, and he was therefore raised by a single mother who never remarried. Hayes proved an excellent student, and earned a law degree from Harvard in the 1840’s, before returning to Ohio to practice.
Hayes was a very good student, having attended the Norwalk Seminary and a college preparatory program before going to Kenyon College, where he graduated as valedictorian. While at Kenyon, Hayes became keenly interested in the election of 1840. He wholeheartedly supported William Henry Harrison and wrote in his diary that he was never “…more elated by anything in my life.”
Hayes was elected as the Governor of Ohio in 1867. He served in that capacity until 1872. He was reelected in 1876. However, at that point, he was chosen to run for the presidency. His time as governor was spent enacting civil service reforms.
Rutherford B. Hayes was the first President to have a typewriter and a telephone in the White House; President Hayes’s telephone was installed in the White House in 1879 by none other than Alexander Graham Bell; his phone number was 1.
He won the closest presidential election in American history by just one vote. Due to this, he was nicknamed “Rutherfraud” and “His Fraudulency” for the next four years.
Because March 4, 1877 fell on a Sunday, Hayes took the oath of office privately on Saturday, March 3, in the Red Room of the White House, the first president to do so in the Executive Mansion. He took the oath publicly on the following Monday on the East Portico of the United States Capitol.
He and his wife, Lucy Webb Hayes (1831 – 1889), were unusually well educated. She was the first First Lady to have a college degree. He married Lucy Ware Webb on December 30, 1852. The couple had seven sons and one daughter. Hayes did not drink, smoke nor gamble throughout his life. So, he was nicknamed “Granny Hayes“.
His wife Lucy banned dancing, smoking, alcohol and card playing from the White House. Lucy came to be known as “Lemonade Lucy” for her decision to not serve any alcohol.
Of the seven U.S Presidents that fought the civil war, only Hayes was wounded in the war. He was wounded on four occasions and had four horses shot from under him.
Hayes had vowed to only serve one term, and he followed through on that promise, choosing not to run for re-election in 1880. Instead, he became a trustee of Ohio State University, and supported pet causes and interests, most notably federal student aid, civil rights, wealth disparity, and prison conditions.
He was the first President to have a typewriter and a telephone in the White House; President Hayes’s telephone was installed in the White House in 1879 by none other than Alexander Graham Bell; his phone number was 1.
Hayes also started the tradition of the Easter Egg roll on the White House lawn, which has been run on the Monday after Easter since 1878.
In 1880, Hayes embarked on a 71-day tour of the West Coast of America, becoming the first sitting president to travel the Rocky Mountains. Hayes’s traveling party included his wife, Lucy, and General William Tecumseh Sherman, who helped organize the trip.
“Personally I do not resort to force–not even the force of law–to advance moral reforms. I prefer education, argument, persuasion, and above all the influence of example.”– Rutherford B. Hayes (1822-1893), 19th President of the United States (1877-1881)
Hayes refused renomination by the Republican Party in 1880, contenting himself with one term as president. In retirement he devoted himself to humanitarian causes, notably prison reform and educational opportunities for Southern black youth.
Hayes died of a heart attack in January of 1893, four years after his wife. In 1916, the Rutherford B. Hayes Center Library was opened in Fremont, Ohio, and thus became the first presidential library in existence. Hayes and his wife, as well as Hayes’ trusty Civil War horse, Old Whitey, are buried nearby.
His last words were, “I know I am going where Lucy is.”
Ayomide Akinbode holds a degree in Chemistry but has a passion for History and Classics. When he is not writing, he’s either sleeping or playing Scrabble.