Shortest Presidency in the USA
Who took the seat of President for the shortest period of time? Historians would like you to think that it was William Henry Harrison. The President was elected, gave the longest acceptance speech in presidential history of 105 minutes and then passed away from pneumonia merely a month after being inaugurated.
This is not true, though. An obscure man, David Rice Atchison was actually the shortest termed President in United States History. President Atchison was President on March 4, 1849. The United States Senate had the authority, under certain unique situations, to select a President pro tempore (temporary) to fill the role and responsibilities of the President until the elected President could be available to fulfill his responsibilities.
In the 1800's the President was charged with his new duties on March 4 at noon. In 1849 March 4 fell on a Sunday, causing a delay in the inauguration of Zachary Taylor to the office of President. So, to fill the post in the interim the Senate voted to place David Rice Atchison as President Pro Tem until March 5 when President Taylor could take the post. The Senate voted President Atchison into office on the preceding Friday, March 2, and when the parting President left the office at noon on Sunday, David Rice Atchison dutifully took over the position until appropriate.
The President pro tempore had other responsibilities as well. If the Vice President left the chambers of the senate, the President protem would then preside over the dealings of the Congress. He fulfilled the third spot in succession to the Presidency. If something were to happen to the President and Vice President then the protem President would sit the seat of President until the next election term. Now that role is filled by the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Although Historians may argue whether Mr. Atchison was truly president for a day, Mr. Atchison was happy to remark to anyone he told his story to that he claimed to have the most honest presidency of any president. He did not have time to be otherwise.