It’s always dismaying when a president of the United States has a health problem while in office, and it was pleasant to see Mr. Trump get hauled back from the hospital to the White House.
I call him “Mr.” by habit, because at the old Evening Bulletin, where I labored as a young reporter, it was Bulletin rules to call a man Mr. if he were the president, a clergyman or in his obituary.
Presidents, like most of us, tended to get sick occasionally through the years. The first one with problems while in office was, who else?
George Washington survived tumor surgery, influenza (twice), diphtheria, tuberculosis, smallpox, malaria, dysentery, quinsy, a carbuncle and a few near misses on the battlefield.
William Henry Harrison, when he was inaugurated on March 4, 1841, gave an 8,445 word speech, nearly two hours, with no hat or coat, on a cold, windy day. He got pneumonia, and died April 5.
Zachary Taylor was president for 16 months when he died on July 9, 1850, diagnosed with cholera but historians variously disagree.
James Garfield was shot in the abdomen by Charles Guiteau on July 2, 1881. He died on Sept. 19, of a massive infection (doctors didn’t wash their hands in those days) with a medical team led by Dr. Doctor Willard Bliss (yes, his first name was Doctor.)
Grover Cleveland, starting his second term in 1893, was diagnosed with a cancerous tumor on the roof of his mouth. He kept it secret, and had surgery on an announced four-day fishing trip on a friend’s yacht.
The part of Cleveland’s jawbone that was removed is now at Philadelphia’s Mutter Museum of the College of Physicians at 22nd and Chestnut streets.
Woodrow Wilson had all kinds of illness all his life, yet managed to be president of Princeton University, governor of New Jersey and president of the United States, and to go to Paris to negotiate the treaty that ended World War I.
The last couple of years of Wilson’s presidency, his first lady Edith is widely believed to have run the country in his name.
Warren G. Harding was also sick most of his life, and died on Aug. 6, 1923, in the presidential suite of the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, of a stroke or a heart attack (your choice.)
Franklin D. Roosevelt was stricken in 1921, at age 39, by polio (they called it infantile paralysis then.) Mostly in a wheelchair, he became governor of New York in 1928 and president in 1932; he was re-elected, and served an unprecedented four terms.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower had a heart attack in 1955 and a stroke in 1957 while in office.
John F. Kennedy also had lifelong ailments, but it was an assassin’s bullet that did him in, in 1963.
Ronald Reagan was fairly healthy, though he was the nation’s oldest president. In 1994, four years after his presidency ended, he was diagnosed with Alzheimers Disease.
George H. W. Bush had two colonoscopies. I don’t think I have overlooked any other illnesses in the White House.
And now we come to Donald Trump. At this writing, he’s doing well. Due to the vicissitudes of newspaper production, this has been written some time before you are reading it.
But it would be hard for President Trump to beat those ten episodes of George Washington’s.
Visit columnist Jim Smart’s web site at jamessmartsphiladelphia.com.
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