Friday, January 26, 2007

January 26, 1979:

Nelson Rockefeller Dies In Medias Res

Vice presidents who never become president get little chance for posthumous glory, but Nelson Rockefeller probably has a better-than-average chance of a bit of enduring fame because of the circumstances of his death. Other 20th-century vice presidents died of chronic conditions (Hubert Humphrey of cancer; Henry Wallace of Lou Gehrig’s disease; John Nance Garner of old age) or suddenly (Spiro Agnew of leukemia; Alben Barkley of a heart attack). Rockefeller falls into the latter category, a sudden death, but it’s the details that make the story.

Actually, the details aren’t known, but apparently Rockefeller didn’t die during sex, he just suffered a heart attack during his liaison (and at age 70, a dangerous liaison) and died on the way to the hospital. Whether his young mistress called for help promptly or not has been the subject of some speculation, but unless she talks – and even if she talks – that’s likely to remain a mystery.

In any case, Rockefeller, billionaire philanthropist, four-term governor of New York, perennially frustrated presidential candidate, and eventually the 41st Vice President of the United States under Gerald Ford, can be said to have died in the saddle. It makes for an interesting end to most any political bio.

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