What do Benjamin Wade, Willie P. Mangum and John Nance Garner all have in common? If not for a last-second decision, or a twist of fate, they might have become Acting President of the United States, in an era before the 25th Amendment existed.
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On August 9, 1974, Gerald Ford officially became President in the most unusual of circumstances, as Richard Nixon left Washington in disgrace and the trusted Ford took office without the benefit of direct election to office.
President Zachary Taylor’s death on July 9, 1850 shocked a nation that was in a heated debate about issues that eventually led to the Civil War. But his sudden passing also sidestepped two constitutional crises.
On April 15, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln died from his assassin’s wounds. But if John Wilkes Booth’s plot were entirely successful, a little-known senator may have been thrust into the White House for almost a year.
President John F. Kennedy’s death on November 22, 1963 traumatized a nation and led a united Congress to make a key constitutional change, in the form of the 25th amendment.