A Day of Loss for America

President James A. Garfield.

On July 2, 1881, America lost a President and devoted public servant.  James A. Garfield, the country’s 20th chief executive, was wounded grievously by an assassin’s gunshots.

We at Dawson & Associates are mindful of this anniversary because James Garfield, elected nine times as a U.S. Representative from Ohio, and his family lived in a three-story house he built exactly where our office building now stands in downtown Washington.

On that July 2, Garfield—who had taken the oath of office only 121 days earlier, on March 4, 1881 – was headed to the New Jersey shore to meet his wife, Lucretia, for a few days of relaxation. As he walked through Washington’s old Baltimore and Potomac station towards the train, Garfield was shot twice from behind by Charles J. Guiteau, a disgruntled and probably deranged office seeker.

The wounded President was taken back to the White House, where he spent a miserable, hot summer. Attended by doctors, his condition improved and worsened, by turns.  In September, exhausted by his protracted and unsuccessful convalescence, President Garfield, eager for a change of scene after being bed-ridden for two months, did go to New Jersey to rejoin Lucretia.

He died there on September 19, two months short of his 50th birthday.

As we recount elsewhere on this Web site, President Garfield accomplished much in the House of Representatives. He chaired committees, improved both the decennial census process and the way Congress appropriated money, and set a standard for dedicated, thoughtful, analytical public service.

Normally, the anniversary of a passing is a somber affair.  But then again, as President Garfield himself once put it, “If wrinkles must be written upon our brows, let them not be written upon the heart. The spirit should not grow old.”

May President Garfield’s spirit always stay young.

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