Wednesday, April 11, 2007

April 11, 1862:

Charles Evans Hughes' Birthday

Associate justice of the US Supreme Court and later chief justice of the United States, secretary of war, governor of New York: Charles Evans Hughes was all of these and more during his long career, but for want of about 3,000 votes in California in 1916, never president of the United States. He is among that small group of men -- including but not limited to Samuel J. Tilden, James G. Blaine and Al Gore -- who all came within a whisker of the presidency. Had California's electors gone to Hughes, he would have unseated Woodrow Wilson (as it happened, Wilson won the electoral vote 277 to 254).

Speaking of whiskers, Hughes was also the last major-party presidential candidate to wear both a beard and mustache, and by losing wasn't able to delay the trend of clean-shaven presidents in the 20th century after Taft. He wasn't the most recent presidential candidate with facial hair, however. That distinction currently belongs to the mustachioed Thomas Dewey, loser in 1944 and '48.

According to the entertaining web site "Facial Hair and Presidential Elections, "It is said that Hughes 'grew his famous beard in 1890 in the interest of efficiency - to save trips to the barber.' Theodore Roosevelt, reconciled with the Republican Party, unenthusiastically campaigned for Hughes, whom he called "Wilson with whiskers." Hughes apparently went to bed on election night thinking he had won, and was woken in the morning to learn that he had lost."

This is another amusing article about presidential facial hair.

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