9 Super-Presidential Marriages

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The only thing that could possibly be more stars-and-stripes than a post about U.S. presidents and American historical figures is a post that doubles up on them. In honor of Independence Day, we give you nine presidential relatives who didn’t have to look too far from the White House to meet their spouses.

1. When Dwight D. Eisenhower’s grandson began dating Richard Nixon’s daughter, the security guards at her college weren’t too amused: He once told a guard, “David Eisenhower here to see Julie Nixon,” and the guard responded, “Yeah, and my name is Harry S. Truman.”

David and Julie had known each other since the 1956 Republican National Convention, but didn’t start dating until they were both in college in 1966. She went to Smith and he was at Amherst just eight miles away.

2. Andrew Jackson Donelson was technically Andrew Jackson’s nephew, but he acted as guardian for A.J. and seven other children after their father died. In fact, Donelson was so close to Andrew that his first wife (and first cousin) Emily served as the unofficial First Lady after Rachel Jackson died. After Emily died as well, Donelson married another cousin, Elizabeth Randolph, who was previously wed to Thomas Jefferson’s grandson. Donelson would have his own brush with the White House as Millard Fillmore’s running mate in 1856. The pair only received eight electoral votes, however, and James Buchanan became the 15th president of the United States.

3. George Washington never had children of his own, but raised his wife’s children from a previous marriage as if they were his own. In addition, he later adopted his step-grandson, George Washington Parke Custis, as his own son. GWPC had a daughter named Mary Anna, who married her third cousin, Robert E. Lee. Yep, that Robert E. Lee. In addition to being an American military icon, Lee’s great-great grandmother was Thomas Jefferson’s great-aunt.

4. Though they’re probably the least-known related presidents, you might remember that ninth president William Henry Harrison was the grandfather of 23rd president Benjamin Harrison. Elizabeth Harrison, Benjamin’s daughter, married James Blaine Walker, the grandnephew of James G. Blaine, her father’s secretary of state. Blaine was present when President James Garfield was shot by an assassin in 1881...

5. ... which makes it rather interesting that Elizabeth and James’ daughter, Dr. Jane Harrison Walker, married James Garfield’s great-grandson, Newell Garfield.

6. Here’s a twist—a presidential relative who married another presidential relative, then later became president himself. Did you follow all of that? Here’s what happened: Teddy Roosevelt’s niece, Anna, married his fifth cousin, Franklin. You probably know them better as FDR and Eleanor Roosevelt.


7. Sarah Knox Taylor was the second of Zachary Taylor’s three daughters. (He also had a son.) Before Zachary Taylor was the 12th president, he was a general at Fort Crawford in Wisconsin. That’s where 17-year-old Sarah fell in love with his second-in-command, lieutenant Jefferson Davis. Despite her parents’ hesitation, Sarah Knox married Davis in 1835 and contracted malaria almost immediately afterward. She died just three months into their marriage. Though Davis had resigned from the army to marry Sarah, he resumed his military career during the Mexican-American War, where he again served under his former father-in-law, Zachary Taylor. Davis, of course, went on to become the President of the Confederate States of America.

8. Abraham Van Buren, the eldest son of eighth president Martin Van Buren, married Dolley Madison’s cousin, Angelica Singleton. Dolley herself arranged the match. Angelica served as the official First Lady for her father-in-law since his wife had died almost 20 years before he took office.

9. Susan Ford, the only daughter of Gerald and Betty Ford, married Charles Vance—one of her dad's Secret Service agents—in 1979. When Susan openly courted her father's employee, Vance told her that her parents wouldn’t like the 16-year age difference, among other things. “It was only a matter of persuading him that our relationship was more important than his job—which he finally came to realize," Susan later said.

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July 4, 2014 - 11:00am
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