Monday, March 10, 2008

Inaugural Absences

The polite way for a President to leave the White House is to go to his successor’s inauguration. But there have been several presidents who have refused to attend their successor’s inaugurations.

The first President to avoid his successor was John Adams, after the rather nasty election of 1800:
The night before the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson, the lights burned late in the White House. President Adams’ belongings were packed into several wagons, and at four in the morning, President and Mrs. Adams boarded their coach and left the city. President Adams, taking his defeat personally, could not bring himself to attend the festivities attached to his defeat.

The next President was John Quincy Adams, after another bitter election loss, this time to Andrew Jackson:
During the days before the inauguration of Andrew Jackson, wagons were constantly shuttling between the White House and the mansion on Meridian Hill that Adams had rented after he and his wife decided to remain in Washington. During his lame-duck period (between the election and the inauguration of his successor), President Adams and his wife remained in the White House, trying not to notice the continuous celebrations being held to honor Jackson’s victory, and Adams’ defeat. After moving to his rented house on March 3rd, the day before the inauguration, they remained in their mansion. He did not attend or participate in any of the inaugural festivities.

The last one was Andrew Johnson, who was feuding with his successor, Ulysses Grant.


Scott said...

I believe the last time a former president did not attend his successor's inauguration (for a reason other than assassination) was in 1974 when Richard Nixon did not attend inauguration of Gerald Ford.

Nixon left the White House at 10am on August 9, 1974 aboard Marine One, the Presidential helicopter, enroute to Andrews Air Force Base following his thanking the White House staff. This is where the famous shot of him giving his final "double-peace sign salute" was taken before leaving the south lawn of the White House.

Nixon was flown to Andrews AFB where he thank the military and secret service personnel on site. He boarded the Boeing 707 designated SAM 27000 VC-137C. It was the newest of the planes used as Air Force One. Its first flight was flying Nixon from Andrews AFB to San Clemente, California. Once the president boarded, the jet's call sign was renamed Air Force One. The jet's destination was El Toro Maine Air Station near Los Angeles.

Around noon, Gerald Ford was given the oath of office by Chief Justice Warren Burger in the East Room of the White House. At the conclusion of the oath, the crew called in to change its call sign to SAM 27000 while over Jefferson City, Missouri.

That was the last time a president did not attend the inauguration of his successor.

Anonymous said...

To be a bit pedantic, Ford never had an inauguration. The event you describe, which Nixon did not attend, was a swearing-in ceremony.

Also, according to a number of sources, Woodrow Wilson in 1921 rode to the Capitol with his successor, Warren Harding, but, owing to poor health, did not attend the inauguration ceremony on the East Portico of the Capitol.