We love our presidents.
Except when we don’t.
President’s Day is on Monday and with everything our nation is going through, it’s a good time to remember how unique we are. And how unique our presidents have been.
My earliest connection to a United States president came when I had my first big newspaper job in New York.
I was 10 years old and had a job delivering Newsday out on Long Island. It was my first real job. Stay with me here.
My presidential connection was that I delivered papers on Burr Road, which was named after the Burr family of Revolutionary times. Some of the family lived in the neighborhood.
Aaron Burr served as the third vice president of the United States under President Thomas Jefferson. They did not like or trust each other.
I am old, but not old enough to have met Aaron Burr or Thomas Jefferson.
Burr is well known today because he shot and killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel back in 1804. Every school child in America today knows Alexander Hamilton because there has been this blockbuster hip-hop show called ‘Hamilton’ on Broadway for the last bunch of years.
Hamilton is the star of the Broadway show and Burr the villain.
Living up to the responsibility of being the villain, after Burr completed his job as vice president he managed to get arrested and tried for Treason. He was found innocent of the charges, but his reputation was in ruins.
All I know is that the Burr family on Burr Road gave me a nice tip every week when I had to collect for their newspaper delivery.
Over the years, I did have the opportunity to attend presidential events and even rode with Jimmy
Carter when he was campaigning on a bus in Hernando County back in 1976. I remember thinking on the bus that any candidate who was wasting his time riding a bus in the backwoods of Hernando County didn’t have a chance of winning the election.
I also had an opportunity to introduce First Lady Hillary Clinton when she spoke at a convention that was held in St. Augustine. The two of us spent 15 minutes backstage waiting and we talked about kids and dogs and just regular stuff. She was not happy about Bill at the time so we didn’t talk about that.
But back to our presidents — there are things we should know about our presidents that we don’t read in the history books.
Let’s start with the Citrus County connection.
Andrew Jackson was our nation’s seventh president, but his time in Citrus County happened as a general in the U.S. Army when he led the fight against the native Americans in the First Seminole War. The very smart Seminoles often hid out in what today is known as the “Cove of the Withlacoochee” located along the river in eastern Citrus County.
General Jackson could never find the Indians because the area was filled swamps, alligators and snakes, so he early on made the decision not to retire to Florida.
For a short time, Jackson served as Florida’s first territorial governor as the Sunshine State was brought into the union.
Grover Cleveland was said to have liked fishing in the Homosassa area back in his day. He was first elected president in 1885 and then lost his re-election bid. Four years later he was elected again, becoming the only person to have won, lost and then won the presidency. We have a road today called Grover Cleveland Boulevard that connects to U.S. 19 south of Homosassa. Cleveland was a bachelor when elected president and is our only top leader to get married while serving. He married his 21-year-old girlfriend. Imagine the scandal today.
While FDR, the 32nd president, was not documented coming to Citrus County, his wife Eleanor Roosevelt visited at least one time. She stopped in the Seminole Club in Hernando for lunch one day in 1938 and was interviewed by a Chronicle reporter.
While Citrus County today is dominated by Republicans, that was not the case in the 1930s. FDR unseated Herbert Hoover in the 1932 election and won the Citrus County vote by 1,212 to 156.
Back to our presidents. George Washington was our first president and a great guy. Here’s something you probably don’t know: George Washington loved dogs.
He loved dogs so much that in the middle of the Battle for Germantown a stray dog was caught up in the fight zone. Washington stopped the fighting and retrieved the dog only to find a collar on the frightened fox terrier that indicated the dog belonged to Gen. William Howe, the commander of the British forces he was fighting.
The dog was sent back to Gen. Howe with a polite note from Gen. Washington. Once the dog was home safely, the fighting resumed. You’ve got to love a president who loves dogs.
Harry Truman was the president who ended World War II by dropping the atomic bomb on Japan. Truman was vice president for only three months when Franklin Roosevelt died in office. They hadn’t even had a meeting to discuss strategy about the war when Roosevelt suddenly died. Just like that, Truman was in charge. Talk about a bad first day at the office.
Gerry Mulligan is the publisher of the Chronicle. Email him at email@example.com.