Frequently Forgotten President Rutherford B. Hayes

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Official Presidential Portrait of Rutherford B. Hayes 

Rutherford B. Hayes is the first in my new series of frequently forgotten U.S. Presidents.

Like President Grant, Hayes had personal integrity, but his presidency was tainted by the very corruption he deplored. During the 1876 presidential election Hayes’ Republican supporters disputed the electoral votes in a few southern states. Republicans promised that Hayes would withdraw federal troops in those states if elected, which he did.

The southern states did not keep their promise to grant civil rights to blacks, however. Though he made other reforms, Hayes’ troop withdrawal delayed the civil rights movement until the 20th century.

The circumstances of his election caused some to label Hayes as “His Fraudulence.” Hayes did gain some support from the public by promoting civil service reform. He signed an executive order that stated that people in public office would be fired only in the best interest of the government regardless of their political affiliations. Hayes followed through on this by firing future Republican president Chester Arthur who used his position at the New York Customs House to help other Republicans.

Though he had pledged to serve only one term, he couldn’t have run again if he wanted to because so many Republicans were angered by his efforts to root out corruption. He managed to accomplish some changes, however.

He had the first telephone installed and was the first president to have a college-educated wife. He and “Lemonade Lucy” banned alcohol from White House dinners. After leaving office he became one of the most active ex-presidents, supporting causes like black education and prison reform.

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