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Fourth Right : Visiting presidential birthplaces can remind us that all men are created equal

July 02, 1989|KIM UPTON | Times Staff Writer

Like the rest of us, our Presidents are diverse. They are the children of the wealthy and educated, the children of the poor. They were born on historic plantations on the river banks of Virginia, in modest wood-frame homes on the Midwestern plain, on ranches in Texas cattle country. They are the sons of ministers, of farmers, of land barons, of laborers.

And some of the homes where they were born are open to the public. To visit those homes is to be reminded of several things: Of our right to travel to those homes. Of our right to aspire to their position. Of their origins, which often were humble. Of our right to elect the leaders of our choice.

When our nation was born on the Fourth of July, so were our opportunities. Let's celebrate with a quiz on some lesser-known facts about our Presidents.

Which two Presidents died on the same day--July 4, 1826?

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.

Which state produced the President who held office for only one day?

Kentucky. David Rice Atchison, born in Frogtown, Aug. 11, 1807, who, as president pro tempore of the U.S. Senate, effectively became leader of our nation for one day--March 4, 1849, when President-elect Zachary Taylor, a staunchly religious man, refused to take office on a Sunday.

Which President's birthplace is claimed by two states?

Andrew Jackson, born March 15, 1767, in Waxhaw settlement on the farm of his aunt near the North Carolina/South Carolina border, but before the border was drawn. North Carolina commemorates its favorite son with a highway marker about 20 miles south of Charlotte. South Carolina celebrates its home-grown president with Andrew Jackson State Park on U.S. 521, north of Lancaster. The park features a picnic area, nature trail, camping and fishing facilities and a one-room schoolhouse and museum that contain artifacts of the period and the area. Call (803) 285-3344.

What is placed in a time capsule beneath the site of Gerald Ford's Omaha birthplace?

In 1976, during the Bicentennial, officials planted a time capsule beneath the President Gerald R. Ford Birthsite & Gardens in Omaha. It contained, among other things, a six-pack of Falstaff beer, sealed but empty. In addition, it contained a football, a plastic telephone showing how the parts work, two manikins depicting 1976-era dress and income tax information from the IRS.

Who was the only President to be married in the White House?

Grover Cleveland, who in June 1886 married 21-year-old Frances Folsom, Cleveland's ward since her father died in 1875. Her father had been one of Cleveland's law partners.

What profession did the fathers of Presidents Grover Cleveland and Woodrow Wilson share?

Both were Presbyterian ministers.

Which birthplace is on land still inhabited by a late President's widow?

The L.B.J. birth site, at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park near Johnson City, Tex., is on the ranch where Lady Bird Johnson sometimes resides.

Which state is birthplace of eight Presidents and the final resting place of seven?

Eight Presidents were born in Virginia: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor and Woodrow Wilson. Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Tyler, William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy all are buried in Virginia.

Which state was the birthplace of the second-greatest number of Presidents?

Seven U.S. Presidents--Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft and Warren G. Harding--were born in Ohio.

Who is the only President born in California?

Richard M. Nixon.

Which President was born on the plantation where "Taps" was composed?

William Henry Harrison (son of Declaration of Independence signer Benjamin Harrison, who also lived in the house, and grandfather of 23rd President Benjamin Harrison) was born on Berkeley plantation in Virginia. That is where "Taps" was composed in 1862 while Union Forces were encamped there during the Civil War, and where the first bourbon whiskey in America was distilled in 1621.

On what date was the Declaration of Independence formally adopted by the Second Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia?

If you don't know the answer to this, ask any grade-school child. (Penalty for an incorrect answer is that you must go to work on Tuesday.)

As a reward for successfully completing this quiz, here are a few Presidential birthplaces to visit at your leisure. They also are a reminder of how we began and who we have become.

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