9th President of the United States
William Henry Harrison Sr. (February 9, 1773 – April 4, 1841) was an American military officer, a principal contributor in the War of 1812, and the ninth President of the United States (1841). He was the last president born before the American Revolution, and died of pneumonia just 31 days into his term, thereby serving the shortest tenure in United States presidential history. He was the first president to die in office, and his death sparked a brief constitutional crisis. Its resolution left unsettled Constitutional questions as to the presidential line of succession until the passage of the Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1967. Harrison was a son of Founding Father Benjamin Harrison V and the paternal grandfather of Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd United States President (1889–1893).
Before election as president, Harrison served as the first congressional delegate from the Northwest Territory and the first Governor of Indiana Territory. He gained national fame for leading U.S. forces against Native Americans at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, where he earned the nickname "Old Tippecanoe". He was promoted to major general in the subsequent War of 1812, and served in the Battle of the Thames the following year. This battle resulted in the death of Tecumseh and the dissolution of the Native American coalition which Tecumseh had led.
After the war, Harrison moved to Ohio, where he was elected to the United States House of Representatives. In 1824, the state legislature elected him to the United States Senate. He served a truncated term after being appointed as Minister Plenipotentiary to Gran Colombia in May 1828. In Santa Fe de Bogotá, he spoke with president Simón Bolívar, urging Bolívar to guide his nation toward American-style democracy. Harrison returned to private life on his farm in Ohio until he was nominated for the presidency as one of several Whig Party candidates in the election of 1836. He received more votes than any other Whig, but was defeated by Democrat Martin Van Buren, and returned again to his farm.
Van Buren soon became a major target of criticism from the Whigs following the Panic of 1837. Seeking to run a non-controversial and less ideological war hero who could defeat Van Buren based on popularity, a unified Whig Party nominated Harrison over party founder Henry Clay and fellow general Winfield Scott. John Tyler of Virginia was selected as his running mate, and Harrison and Tyler defeated Van Buren in the 1840 election. At the time, he was the oldest president ever elected. However, Harrison died of pneumonia in April 1841, at the age of 68, a month after taking office. Tyler then assumed the presidency, setting a major precedent. Due to the short length of Harrison's presidency, scholars and historians often forgo listing him in rankings of U.S. presidents.