Teamsters Local 237

A New Yorker In The White House

altAfter 12 consecutive presidents from somewhere other than New York, this time, no matter who won the election, Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, the president would be a New Yorker. Political pundits will be writing about this election for years to come, including questioning how the outcome was miscalculated by almost all of the experts and pollsters who predicted that things were supposed to be different.

On election night, under the glass dome of the Jacob Javits Center, Hillary Clinton was going to shatter the ceiling and face the endless sky above, symbolically and politically. To the disappointment of many, that didn’t happen, but New York still bears the distinction of being home to the 45th president of the United States. Only six other presidents were from New York throughout our nation’s history. Each one exhibited that certain New York style, swagger and savvy.

Martin Van Buren, our 8th president, who served from 1837 to 1841, was a Democrat who quit school at age 14 but managed to pass the bar and become a lawyer by age 23. A memorable quote of his is: “As president, the two happiest days of my life were those of my entry upon office and the day of my surrender of it.”

Millard Fillmore was the 13th president. He completed the term of President Zachary Taylor who died after serving only one year in office. Fillmore, a member of the Whig Party, was neither a Democrat nor a Republican.

Chester A. Arthur was born in Vermont but lived near Schenectady. As a young abolitionist lawyer, he represented a black woman in a civil rights case that resulted in the desegregation of New York City street cars more than 100 years before Rosa Parks. He served the remaining term of president James Garfield, who died two months after being shot by an assassin in 1881.

Grover Cleveland, whose face was on the old $1,000 bill, was the first Democrat elected president after the Civil War and the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms. He was both the 22nd and 24th president.

Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican, had a wide variety of interests and abilities, from lawyer, to cowboy, to biggame hunter, to serving as New York City Police Commissioner. He took office upon the assassination of President William McKinley, and served from 1901 to 1909. He became the first president to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and was largely responsible for building the Panama Canal.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Theodore’s cousin, led the nation through the Great Depression and World War ll. A Democrat from Hyde Park, he was stricken with polio at age 39 — a fact he hid from the public. Roosevelt was a president of many firsts. He served more than two terms (term limits did not go into effect until 1951). He had a presidential airplane, appeared on television and appointed a female cabinet member among a long list of his presidential first-evers.

Now, we have a native New Yorker, Donald Trump, born and raised in Jamaica Estates, Queens, as the next Commander-in-Chief. He certainly bears the essential traits of a typical New Yorker with a determined, self-confident style that combines sophistication, humor and drive. While countless books will be written analyzing lessons learned and, at least for the immediate future, the hot topic of talk shows will be speculating on what to expect next, one thing we know for sure: the 45th President of the United States may live at the White House, but New York is always what he calls “home.”

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Oral History Project

Hercules Cornish: Caretaker J Stores Man

Herclules CornishHercules Cornish went to work for the Housing Authority as a caretaker J in 1952 and retired 24 years later as a stores worker. He died the year following this interview, which was conducted in June 1999.

Originally I was from Harlem, but when I came out of the service in 1945 my wife had moved to the Bronx, so I moved there, too. I went to work for the New York City Housing Authority in 1952.

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