James Garfield Memorial – my 6th cousin

The only thing I knew about James Garfield was he was once U.S. president. I would have struggled to write a fifth-grade report on him

But coming across Garfield’s memorial on the U.S. Capitol grounds intrigued me into learning more. Turns out he was shot three months into his presidency in 1881 by a failed job applicant and died three months later at age 50.

And you thought today’s economic times was tough.

The only clergy member to serve as president, Garfield is also the only person in U.S. history to be a Representative, Senator-elect and President-elect simultaneously. He was not only left-handed, but known to simultaneously write in Latin in one hand and in English with the other. (My handwriting looks like Latin, but is really English.) Garfield was related to a Mayflower passenger later convicted of murder.

And it turns out Garfield was my sixth cousin, six generations removed, on my father’s side. I knew there was something regal about the guy. Incidentally, half of you reading this are probably my sixth cousin.

The monument, sculpted by John Quincy Adams Ward and a pedestal designed by Richard Morris Hunt, was unveiled on May 12, 1887. The Society of the Army of the Cumberland and Congress paid about $65,000 for the monument, which was moved to the Capitol Grounds on Jan. 2, 1975.

The 9-foot statue is towering as Garfield looks west over the Mall. I centered in more on the three 5-foot Roman figures at the base. They represent Garfield’s careers as a scholar, soldier and statesman.

Now you know enough to write a fifth-grade report.

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