He was America's most fuckingest leader, and that made for some truly mind-bending genealogy.
President John Tyler is generally forgotten today. If he's remembered, it's usually to remind everyone that he kinda sucked. You will often find the name of the tenth president, who ran the country from 1841 to 1845, on lists of America's most obscure presidents, and in those rankings historians love to generate around President's Day, you'll almost always find his name in the bottom quartile. A 2007 Rasmussen poll of the general public, which measured both whether or not respondents had heard of the guy, and what they thought of him if they did, placed him dead last. A while ago, VICE did a very unscientific ranking of all the presidents from lamest to coolest. Here, too, Tyler was at the bottom.
It's a hard thing to be both unknown and widely hated, but this weird-faced Virginian did it.
And indeed, Tyler's achievements were few. He signed something called the Treaty of Winghia with Qing China, and the Webster-Ashburton Treaty with Britain, the document that finally settled which parcels of bleak, moose-pawed pine forests were in northern Maine and which were in Canada.
He annexed Texas. And, and... let's see. He saw to it that there was a peaceful transfer of power when he assumed the Oval Office after the elected president, William Henry Harrison, kicked the can mere weeks after his inauguration, setting the precedent for succession we still follow today. Harrison's cabinet wanted to make him "vice-president acting president," but Tyler cracked the whip and told them he would accept no such designation.
Still, Tyler's many detractors called him "His Accidency" after that. His own Whig Party tried to impeach him. He was on the wrong side of the slavery question and owned as many as 70 human beings in bondage.
A century after his administration, his own biographer Robert Seager II would write, "His countrymen generally remember him, if they have heard of him at all, as the rhyming end of a catchy campaign slogan."
That would be "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!" of course. Even that could be improved with a just a few keystrokes, if they had keys to stroke back then. If the Harrison campaign wanted a really memorable slogan, they would have rolled with "Tippecanoe and Tyler's Tool!" For there is one thing you can't take away from John Tyler, and that is this: He was the fuckingest president who ever lived and likely will always remain so. FOH, Warren G. Harding!
Consider: He conceived so many kids and kept making babies for so long that two of his grandchildren are still alive. You read that right: two grandchildren of a man born in 1790, a few weeks after George Washington gave America's inaugural state of the union address, a guy whose dad roomed with Thomas Jefferson at William and Mary, has two living grandchildren. No greats. Grandchildren.
Tyler had eight children with his first wife, Letitia Christian.
A mere six months after her death, Tyler made his first move on 22-year-old Julia Gardiner, 30 years his junior and hailing from a wealthy Hamptons family. She declined that proposal and a few more that followed until she finally broke down in 1844.
Tyler's Tool went back into action and stayed busy until 1860, when, at age 70, he fathered the last of his seven children with Julia. He died two years later.
So that's 15 kids total. (And that might not quite be all of them. Abolitionists claimed he sired, and then sold, one or more children with one or more of his slaves, and those stories still echo today in the African American oral tradition of the Virginia Tidewater. However, unlike the case of Tyler's dad's old roomie and close friend Thomas Jefferson, there is no DNA evidence, either in support or refutation, of these claims.)
It's as if John Tyler was trying to fuck his way out of obscurity.
It all makes for some mind-bending genealogy.
Pearl, Tyler's baby girl born to Julia, died in 1947, 132 years after the 1814 birth of Mary, his first child with Letitia. In other words, the lives of his children spanned everything from the Battle of New Orleans to the atom bomb.
And then there was his son, Lyon Gardiner Tyler (born: 1853), his fourth by Julia and a chip off the old studly block. He had three kids by his first wife, Anne Tucker. Like his dad before him, Lyon wasted little time grieving his first wife's 1921 death, and by 1924, he'd married Sue Ruffin, 35 years his junior, and got back in the bellypoppin' game. And two of their three kids—Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. (born 1924) and Harrison Ruffin Tyler (born 1928 and likely named after old Tippecanoe)—are still living.
Today. Right now.
Hell, Harrison still lives on Sherwood Forest Plantation in Virginia, in his granddad's old house. Lyon lives in Franklin, Tennessee, a state that joined the Union six years after President Tyler was born.
It's as if John Tyler was trying to fuck his way out of obscurity, telling the world, "You might write me out of the history books, but I'll just fill the world with my offspring!"
When Donald Trump takes office later this month, barring the deaths of both Lyon and Harrison, just three generations of the Tyler family, a Virginia clan that laughs at the very idea of Viagra, will have lived through all 45 presidencies.
John Tyler the Dick may be long forgotten, but John Tyler's dick lives on.
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