Today in History: April 4

President William Henry Harrison died on this date in 1841.

Harrison’s brief presidency may have yielded more trivia per capita than any other in history: He was the oldest president elected (age 68) until President Reagan, 140 years later (a record that might be broken again this year, with two leading candidates who will be older than Reagan was); he was the first to die in office; his was briefest presidency (only 32 days); he was the last President born before the country was founded in 1776; his was to this date the longest inaugural speech; he is the only grandfather of a future President; and he was the first President to be photographed while in office.

The photograph was made on March 4, 1841, his inauguration day, but has since been lost to history. What remains is a daguerreotype of the photo, seen at top.

Yet more important than any of the above may be that his sudden death revealed a flaw in the U.S. Constitution: there was no order of succession delineated in it. Who would or could replace him? His Vice President, John Tyler, acted swiftly and had the Oath of Office administered. The Constitution was amended to remedy this.

* * * *
At 6:01 p.m. on April 4, 1968, as he was standing outside his second-floor room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed. The night before, he concluded what he did not know would be his final sermon with these words:

I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.
And I don’t mind.
Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

* * * *
As far as Muddy Waters was concerned, today would be his 101st birthday. He claimed to be born on this date in 1915 and probably had been told this, but research shows that he was born on this date in 1913. That is sufficient reason for a video. In 1981, Muddy Waters was performing at Buddy Guy’s club, the Checkerboard Lounge, when Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, and Ian Stewart of the Rolling Stones stopped in. Music ensued:

Maya Angelou was born on this date in 1928. Anthony Perkins was born on this date in 1931. Heath Ledger was born on this date in 1979.

Estelle Harris (Mrs. Costanza, Mrs. Potato Head) is 88 today. Clive Davis is 84. Hugh Masekela is 77. Craig T. Nelson is 72. Christine Lahti is 66 today. David E. Kelley is 60. Hugo Weaving is 56. Robert Downey Jr. is 51.

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Please comment here. Thank you, Mark.

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