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Bragging rights at the old folks home...
March 30, 2008 8:23 AM   Subscribe

Would Barack Obama be the first president with a living grandparent?

I had a look at some of the other "young" presidents (JFK, TR, etc.) and as far as I could make out, the grandparents died well before their grandsons became president. Both of Obama's grandmothers are alive. Assuming Obama wins and one or both of them make it to inauguration day would this be a first?
posted by the christopher hundreds to Grab Bag (11 answers total)
 
According to this page, JFK's maternal grandmother, Mary Josephine Hannon, died in 1964, and so was alive when he was inaugurated in 1961.
posted by cerebus19 at 8:42 AM on March 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


(Hannon was her maiden name, of course. Her married name was Fitzgerald.)
posted by cerebus19 at 8:43 AM on March 30, 2008


That also means, incidentally, that JFK is the first president to have predeceased a grandparent.
posted by cerebus19 at 8:45 AM on March 30, 2008


For clarity's sake, his Kenyan grandmother is not his biological grandmother. See this USA Today article:

"Sarah Obama was the second wife of the candidate's late grandfather, so is not his biological grandmother. But Barack Obama's half sister, Auma Obama, said: "By our definition, in our culture, she is his grandmother," she said."
posted by chiababe at 8:45 AM on March 30, 2008


According to this page, JFK's maternal grandmother, Mary Josephine Hannon, died in 1964, and so was alive when he was inaugurated in 1961.

And 95 years old. Thank you. I should have looked harder.

Any others?
posted by the christopher hundreds at 8:50 AM on March 30, 2008


More clarity: Obama's maternal grandmother, Madelyn Dunham, is also still alive. She's the one he famously referred to in his speech on race.
posted by wyzewoman at 9:29 AM on March 30, 2008


Oh. I see you already mentioned both grandmothers in the OP. Sorry!
posted by wyzewoman at 9:30 AM on March 30, 2008


A clarification here from a genealogy dork...

Sarah Obama's late husband was Hussein Onyango Obama (1895-1979), the paternal grandfather to Senator Obama.

Hussein Onyango Obama was Muslim and polygamous. And so Sarah is not just Hussein Onyango Obama's second wife, in the terms Westerners might think of it, such as following the first wife's divorce or death -- she is his second wife who was also alive and married to him at the same time that his first wife, Senator Obama's biological paternal grandmother Akumu Obama, was alive and married to him.

In other words, Sarah Obama is not merely Obama's step-grandmother, she is also his full legal grandmother as an additional spouse of his grandfather -- and thus fits the criteria of the original poster's question.
posted by Asparagirl at 10:49 AM on March 30, 2008


Any others?

I've looked a bit, but haven't found anything. It's pretty unlikely there are any others, since TR, JFK, and Clinton are the only presidents since 1850 inaugurated in their 40s. With life expectancy at birth under 60 until about 1920 or so, more presidents' parents were likely dead when they were inaugurated than were alive, let alone grandparents.

Now that life expectancy has gotten much longer (and keeps lengthening), we're likely to see this sort of thing happen much more often.
posted by cerebus19 at 11:46 AM on March 30, 2008


With life expectancy at birth under 60 until about 1920 or so, more presidents' parents were likely dead when they were inaugurated than were alive, let alone grandparents.

'course, life-expectancy-at-birth isn't relevant when looking at presidential ancestor longevities.
posted by tachikaze at 6:15 PM on March 30, 2008


Wikipedia lists four presidents survived by a parent.
posted by mattbucher at 10:03 AM on March 31, 2008


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