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"American History in Three Men":

Michael Lorton writes:

According to my research, the oldest living Justice right now is John Paul Stevens. He was born in 1920, and at the time, the oldest living Justice was, of course, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., born in 1841 when the oldest living Justice was Gabriel Duvall. Duvall was born in 1752! He was [23] years old when the Declaration of Independence was signed.

MikeS (mail):
Actually, Duvall was 23 at the time (born on December 6, 1752). [Whoops, fixed, thanks! -EV]
6.1.2009 2:34pm
Tony Tutins (mail):
I love tales of century spanners. I once worked with a woman whose husband's father had served in the Civil War. Their son would be 45 today. Longevity plus starting families late in life is the key.
6.1.2009 2:50pm
Porkchop:
As I recall, Justice Holmes loved to point out that he knew a man who knew a man who knew a man who knew Peregrine White. I heard that from a very elderly Holmes law clerk some 25 or more years ago, so I guess I knew a man ...
6.1.2009 3:05pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
I love tales of century spanners. I once worked with a woman whose husband's father had served in the Civil War. Their son would be 45 today. Longevity plus starting families late in life is the key.
Well, the classic example is that John Tyler's grandchild -- yes, that John Tyler, president of the U.S. in the 1840s -- is still alive.
6.1.2009 3:16pm
Dan D:
It's another reminder of just how young a nation the United States truly is, in historical terms
6.1.2009 3:37pm
BT:
Re:David M. Nieporent's point above (sorry I can't provide the link):

Who2 Editorial Blog
Notes and Commentary from the Editors

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wait, John Tyler's Grandson Is Still Alive?
Yes, it's true.

Harrison Tyler, age 81, is alive and well and living in the family homestead in Virginia.

Let's back up. John Tyler was president from 1841-45. How can a guy who became president 168 years ago have a living grandson?

It helps if he's a distinguished horndog who keeps fathering children until he's 70 years old. Lyon Gardiner Tyler, his 13th child, was born in 1853, when John Tyler was 63.

Going his father one better, Lyon Tyler lived to be 81 and fathered a son at age 75, in 1928. That son was Harrison Tyler -- born 66 years after the death of his grandfather and still living today.

John Tyler was the 10th president, and Barack Obama is the 44th, so 34 presidencies have passed between John Tyler and his grandson. For that matter, President Tyler was born in 1790, when George Washington was president... so the three Tyler generations span every single president of the United States.

Harrison Tyler went to the College of William &Mary (like his grandpa) and became a chemical engineer. He still lives in Sherwood Forest Plantation and seems like a good egg. Keeping up the Tyler political tradition, he even donated $1250 to the Virginia Republican Party in 2008.

And he's got a sense of humor about the family fecundity. Here he is encountering some college kids pitching woo near busts of his ancestors at William &Mary:
Shortly after the dedication of the sculptures, Tyler was returning from an alumni event at the University Center and visited the garden, which was occupied by two young couples enjoying the evening.

"I said, 'That's my father, that's my grandfather, and that's my great-grandfather,'" he says. "And they could not be any happier about what you all are using this for.'"
6.1.2009 3:51pm
BT:
Here is another similar type story from 2008:

Obituary

Maudie Hopkins was 19, he was 86 when they married
Maudie White Hopkins, who grew up during the Depression in the hardscrabble Ozarks and married a Confederate army veteran 67 years her senior, has died. She was 93.


LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Maudie White Hopkins, who grew up during the Depression in the hardscrabble Ozarks and married a Confederate army veteran 67 years her senior, has died. She was 93.

Mrs. Hopkins, the mother of three children from a second marriage who loved to make fried peach pies and applesauce cakes, died last Sunday at a hospital.

Other Confederate widows are still living, but they don't want publicity, Martha Boltz of the United Daughters of the Confederacy said.

Mrs. Hopkins, who grew up in a family of 10 children, did laundry and cleaned house for William Cantrell, an elderly Civil War veteran whose wife had died years earlier.

When he offered to leave his land and home to her if she would marry and care for him in his later years, she said yes. She was 19; he was 86.

"After Mr. Cantrell died I took a little old mule he had and plowed me a vegetable garden and had plenty of vegetables to eat. It was hard times; you had to work to eat," she said in an Associated Press interview in 2004.

Mrs. Hopkins later married Winfred White and started a family. She was married four times.

She didn't speak about her marriage to Cantrell for decades, concerned that people would think less of her. She came around four years ago after a Confederate widow in Alabama died amid claims that she was the last widow from that war.

"I didn't do anything wrong," Mrs. Hopkins said in 2004. "I've worked hard my whole life and did what I had to, what I could, to survive. I didn't want to talk about it for a while because I didn't want people to gossip about it. I didn't want people to make it out to be worse than it was."

Military records show Cantrell served in Company A, French's Battalion, of the Virginia Infantry. He enlisted in the Confederate army at age 16 in Pikeville, Ky., and was captured the same year and sent to a prison camp in Ohio. He was exchanged for a Northern prisoner, and moved to Arkansas after the war to live with relatives.

In the 2004 interview, Mrs. Hopkins referred to her first husband as "Mr. Cantrell" and described him as "a good, clean, respectable man."

Baxter County records show they were married in January 1934. She said Cantrell supported her with his Confederate pension of "$25 every two or three months" and left her his home when he died in 1937.

The pension benefits ended at Cantrell's death, according to records filed with the state Pension Board.

She is survived by two daughters and a son.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
6.1.2009 4:05pm
Mark E.Butler (mail):
My great-aunt died last year, two weeks shy of her 101st birthday. Her father, my great-grandfather, was born in 1839.

If only he'd had some property in trust, with life interests to his children and remainders to issue living at the death of the last child . . . . Rule Against Perpetuities be damned!
6.1.2009 4:39pm
Rock Chocklett:
For some reason, I'm reminded of the Ray Stevens song, "I'm My Own Grandpa."
6.1.2009 5:21pm
Redman:

When I started practicing law in 1975, the senior partner was an elderly man whose father, as a young man, had been a physician in the Civil War.
6.1.2009 5:30pm
Eric Rasmusen (mail) (www):
You don't have to stop-- Lord Mansfield was born in 1705 (and with a little research, you coudl find a judge born in the 1600's).


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lord_Mansfield
6.1.2009 7:00pm
MarkField (mail):

My great-aunt died last year, two weeks shy of her 101st birthday. Her father, my great-grandfather, was born in 1839.


My grandmother died last year at the age of 99. Her great grandmother was still alive when she was born and lived to be 89. That covers 1821-2008.
6.1.2009 7:33pm
krs:

It helps if he's a distinguished horndog who keeps fathering children until he's 70 years old. Lyon Gardiner Tyler, his 13th child, was born in 1853, when John Tyler was 63.

Going his father one better, Lyon Tyler lived to be 81 and fathered a son at age 75, in 1928.

I wonder if a DNA testing lab might beg to differ.
6.1.2009 7:44pm
Live Long And Prosper?:
I remember reading a (probably apocryphal) story that that a young Oliver Wendell Holmes was acquainted with an old John Quincy Adams, 6th President of the United States, and an old Oliver Wendell Holmes was acquainted with a young John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States.

Anyone else ever hear this one?
6.1.2009 7:56pm
Live Long And Prosper?:
*Jr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
6.1.2009 7:57pm
MikeS (mail):

Harrison Tyler


I like that: naming your son after the man who made your father president (even if it was by not knowing enough to come in out of the rain).
6.1.2009 8:06pm
wm13:
Slightly off topic, but not too far, my father told me that one day, one of his professors announced: "Gentlemen, this is a sad anniversary; one hundred days ago today my brother died." The story being that his father had a son who died young, and, 40 years later (by another wife), another son who had become a 60 year old law professor. I'm not sure if this was in the context of discussing the Rule Against Perpetuities.
6.1.2009 8:23pm
Dennis Nicholls (mail):
When I was in college I took up the 'cello. My teacher (about my age) was a student of William Van Den Berg, who was a student of Pablo Casals. It doesn't take too many generations to tie oneself back to famous forebearers.
6.1.2009 10:37pm
jsmith (mail):
I recall an obituary in the Washington Post 20 or so years ago of a man, one of whose greatest memories was shaking the hand of a man who shook the hand of Thomas Jefferson.

How I wish I'd met him and shook his hand.
6.1.2009 11:18pm
Jason F:
When Lady Bird Johnson died two years ago, I remember noting that when she was born, Harriet Tubman was still alive, and when Harriet Tubman was born, John Adams was still alive. It's humbling to realize that three human lives can span our entire history as a nation.
6.2.2009 2:25am
DCP:

My great grandmother lived to be 104.

She was born just after the Civil War and subsequently her entire family was killed by Indians attacking their wagon train (she and another child were the only survivors). Before she died, she sat in an air conditioned apartment and watched the moon landing on TV.

Think of the progress that occurred during her lifetime. To go from being attacked by Indians to watching the moon landing on TV. That's just crazy.

Also, on a more sordid note, when I was in college (1993-1995) I had a part time job at a law firm where there was a 100 year old guy, who had been retired for 30 years but still had an office at the firm because he couldn't stand to be around his wife (who of course had to help dress him and drive him to the office). Of course he did no work, but he did roam around the building telling inappropriate stories, including bragging about how when he was a boy he had slaves. Apparently his family lived on some rural plantation and when the emancipation proclamation came down they told the slaves, "you ain't goin' anywhere." The threat apparently worked as over 30 years later they were still working the fields and manor, without pay and without liberty to go elsewhere. And according to the ol' man they were referred to as slaves, even in the 1900s, and he took great delight in recalling all of this.
6.2.2009 3:02am
Jam:
I also love "century spanners" accounts.

My great-grandfather died late 1970s or early 1980s. I cannot recall. He was 92. When he was 90, he was atking a stroll in downtown Ponce when he was hit by car. He was not able to fully revcover from the accident.

Which brings me to Dennis Nicholls. Was your teacher then in Puerto Rico while learning from Mr. Casals?
6.2.2009 10:59am
Bert (mail) (www):
Bertrand Russell was personally acquainted with Vladimir Lenin and with John Lennon.
6.3.2009 11:35pm

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