September 27th, 2022
JCLS presentation serves as first public PAC event
U.S. presidential succession, many quirky vice presidents explored
The first public event in the Performing Arts Center at Garrett College – a Joan Crawford Lecture Series presentation – took place Wednesday night.
"I'm pleased and really very honored to be the first public presenter in the PAC," said Dr. Richard Midcap, Garrett College's president, whose presentation was entitled The Complicated History of U.S. Presidential Succession: The Changing Role of the American Vice President.
"I want to make clear I didn't become the first PAC presenter because I'm president," joked Midcap. "It was just timing."
Midcap noted that supply-chain issues, which pushed back the PAC's opening, was the only reason he became the first public presenter.
"But I'm certainly not upset about it – I'm pretty sure interest in the PAC itself, rather than the topic of presidential succession, was responsible for tonight's turnout," he observed.
Midcap explored the nine occasions vice presidents have succeeded to the presidency – four times via presidential assassinations and four times when presidents died of natural causes, along with Gerald Ford's ascension to the presidency upon Richard Nixon's resignation.
"Vice presidents have often tended to be afterthoughts – until they suddenly became presidents," said Midcap, noting 15 vice presidents eventually reached the presidency. "Statistically, the surest path to the presidency is the vice presidency."
And they have certainly been a wild cast of characters, according to Midcap.
"Aaron Burr – Thomas Jefferson's first vice president – killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel and was eventually tried and acquitted of treason for a secessionist plot," said Midcap. "Richard Johnson spent more time in Kentucky managing his tavern than he did in Washington when he was Martin Van Buren's vice president. And two former vice presidents – John Tyler and John C. Breckinridge – eventually held high positions in the Confederate States of America during the Civil War."
Midcap also delved into the 25th amendment, which dealt with presidential incapacity and vice presidential vacancies.
"The 25th Amendment, which became operative in 1967, was prescient," said Midcap. "The country would need it twice in a 10-month period to replace Spiro Agnew – who resigned to avoid going to prison for accepting bribes when he was Maryland's governor – and to fill the vacancy left when Gerald Ford became president upon Richard Nixon's resignation."
Midcap said he hoped the audience left with one key takeaway.
"Vice presidents are kind of like spare tires," said Midcap. "You generally don't think about them until you need them."
The Joan Crawford Lecture Series was created by the Garrett College faculty to honor a dynamic educator who spent more than three decades at the College. Crawford, who died in 2010, came to Garrett College in 1972 and served in a variety of capacities, including head of the Humanities Department. After her retirement, Crawford was named Professor Emerita.
JCLS presentations are offered free of charge, and the public and community members are invited to attend. All presentations from the Joan Crawford Lecture Series will be available to view online through the College's Facebook page. Lectures are live streamed and recordings are posted shortly after the event.
For more information, contact Jenny Meslener at firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-387-3022.