9 thoughts on “James Buchanan Visits UNC”

  1. I wonder which Presidents (future, former or sitting) have visisted UNC? Here’s a start:

    Bill Clinton has been to UNC at least twice – once while campaigning in 1991 and again on the Bicentennial University Day, October 12, 1993 when he spoke at Kenan Stadium.

    I believe that John F. Kennedy also gave a University Day address in 1961 or 1962.

    Of Course, James K. Polk was a member of the class of 1818 and lived here for a couple of years.

    I think Gerald Ford went to Navy Pre-flight school at Horace Williams Airport.

    Richard Nixon went to Duke Law School, so it seems likely that he visited Chapel Hill at some point, but I don’t really know.

    And Andrew Johnson gave the commencement address in 1867, as Pres. Battle relates in his History of UNC:

    “In this year another President of the United States honored our Commencement, Andrew Johnson of Tennessee. In reply to the speech of welcome by President Swain, he told how forty-one years before he had left Raleigh, his native town, and journeyed on foot by way of Chapel Hill to his newly chosen home, how he walked over our main street weary and hungry and asked for food and a night’s lodging from kindly James Craig, who not only complied with his request but gave the forlorn boy a bag full of bread and meat for his future needs. His next visit to Chapel Hill was as President of this great Republic of nearly forty million souls. The cabin which gave him shelter still stands.”

    But there must have been other US Presidents who have visited UNC. Anyone want to add to the list?

  2. as i recall from the letter collection ‘dear bess,’ sen. harry truman stayed overnight in chapel hill while touring the country to study military waste… 1940 or so?… took in a movie and complained to bess about being lonesome…
    more notably, fdr used the occasion of his honorary degree in 1938 (three years after eleanor’s) to dismiss new deal setbacks in the recent elections: “The liberal forces have often been killed and buried, with the inevitable result that they have come to life again more vigorous than before.” He denied, however, that his favorite breakfast dish was “grilled millionaire.”

  3. Jimmy Carter visited while I was an undergraduate. I should know. I attempted to shake his hand. Let me remind all of you that one should never try to sidle up to a former president from behind, no matter how big the crowd is in front of him and even if you do have the best of intentions. Mr. Carter saw the look on my face as the big men with the little dangly things from their ears grabed me by the shoulders. He knew an innocent when he saw one and reached out across those big fellas to shake my hand as if we were old friends, bless his heart. The men with the bulges under their jackets relented, and I remember suggesting to the president that Amy, who was looking at different schools at the time, should become a Tar Heel.

  4. According to Battle’s History of the University of North Carolina, James K. Polk also visited campus while he was president (in 1847):

    from Vol. 1, p. 504:

    “The Commencement of 1847 was the most interesting and conspicuous in our history up to that time. The President of the United States accepted the urgent invitation of President Swain and revisited his Alma Mater after an absence of twenty-nine years. He was accompanied by his Secretary of the Navy, John Young Mason, a Senior, when his chief was a Sophomore. With him, too, was Lieutenant Matthew P. Maury, then in the beginning of his great career in the study of the air and ocean. His classmate, Thomas J. Green, of Virginia, generally regarded at the University as the greater genius by nature, also accompanied him, as did also Branch, once Secretary of the Navy and Governor of this State and of Florida, and Wm. A. Graham, Governor of North Carolina, ex-Governor Morehead, and other prominent men. A classmate, Professor Green, was on hand to welcome his old associate. The chronicler averred that no other institution ever had a President and member of his cabinet and Governor of a distant State in attendance on its exercises.”

  5. The NC Collection also has this resource:

    The presidents come to Chapel Hill : anniversary lecture on the bicentennial of the University of North Carolina / by William E. Leuchtenburg.

    It includes all of the previously mentioned presidential visits (with great detail) and adds the following:

    January 1909: Woodrow Wilson spoke at the University (at the time he was president of Princeton University)

    1915: William Howard Taft, who was on campus to inaugurate the Weil Lectures on American Citizenship (two years after leaving the White House)

  6. I see that an error in Harry McKown’s note about JB’s visit has been corrected — he originally stated that Buchanan had been elected in 1854 but it’s been changed to 1856. Also, a friend and I were talking about some of the details of JB’s visit and particularly the details about what a lady-smoocher he was. The friend reminded me of the suggestiom in James Loewen’s Lies My Teacher Told Me that Buchanan may have been gay. (There’s an interesting exchange on that subject here: http://www.tompaine.com/Archive/scontent/2458.html) I wonder if that’s the reason for the reference to his osculations by the wife of a cabinet officer who’s passing on what her husband reported.

  7. I will point out that the rumored object of President Buchanan’s desire was also a North Carolinian, William Rufus Devane King, who was vice president of the US for a short while, was a longtime member of Congress, and who lived with Buchanan for 20 years. Andrew Jackson called King, “Miss Nancy.” We know little about King and Buchanan because their neices destroyed their papers upon their deaths. The Dialectic and Philanthropic Societies own a portrait of King.

  8. I have a daily Tar Heel from November, 1938 That says FDR and Elinor were to come on Dec 1st if that year. Roosevelt was to speak in Kenan Stadium

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