John Tyler, tenth President of the United States, is not remembered for a spectacularly successful presidency. Even so, he established one of this nation’s most noteworthy constitutional precedents by serving the entire unexpired term of President William Henry Harrison, the first chief executive to die in office. Upon Harrison’s death, he took the oath of office and moved into the White House, staving off what could have proven a constitutional crisis.
At that time, the Constitution failed to provide clear instructions about presidential succession in the event of the death of the chief executive. In the aftermath of a president’s death, did the powers of the presidency merely devolve to the vice president or did the vice president formally ascend to the presidency? Tyler helped establish a succession tradition that eventually was enshrined along with other provisions relating to presidential succession in the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Tyler is noted for another distinction — a rather dubious distinction, in the view of some. He represented Virginia in the Provisional Confederate States Congress and was later elected to represent Virginia’s 3rd district in the permanent Confederate States House of Representatives . However, he died before the first opening session.
Consequently, the coffin of the tenth president of the United States was draped with a Confederate rather than an American flag.