The Founding Fathers crafted a Constitution that has stood the test of time. But it has required tweaking.
One very important tweak happened on this day in 1947.
That's when President Harry Truman signed the Presidential Succession Act. He was hoping to fix something left not quite finished when the Constitution was ratified back in the 1780s.
To take a look at how the nation has wrestled with the thorny question of who’s in charge should something dire happen to the president or vice-president, University of Michigan medical historian and PBS contributor Dr. Howard Markel, joined Stateside today.
History shows presidents get sick, they resign, and they are assassinated. The issue of presidential succession was always critical. Below is a list of some instances.
- April 1841: William Henry Harrison died just a month after taking office. John Tyler moved up from vice president to president. But some wanted him to be “acting” president.
- April 1865: Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and there was a question of who comes after the vice president.
- 1868: President James Garfield was shot and took months to die.
- 1886: Grover Cleveland’s vice president, Thomas A. Hendricks, died in office.
- 1945: Harry Truman became president when Franklin D. Roosevelt died one month into his fourth term.
And there are more.
Listen above to hear why the issue of presidential succession is still unclear.