Richard Mentor Johnson

Burial Location Visited Vice President Grave #
Frankfort, Kentucky April 21, 2010 21st Visited


Richard Johnson, one of America's                                                             A sculpture of Johnson graces
more colorful vice presidents, lays                                                             one the side of his monument.
buried not too far from Daniel Boone
in the city of Frankfort, Kentucky.


Johnson's notoriety and eccentric behavior                                  During the War of 1812, Johnson served
may be what helped to get him elected to                                   as a colonel in the U.S. army.
the vice presidency in 1836, but it definitely
served as a liability later on in his political

                                       *** Interesting Facts ***

* On October 5, 1813, forces commanded by Native American leader Tecumseh engaged in a fight with those lead by General William Harrison in what became known as the Battle of Thames. By the end of the day, it was clear that Harrison and his troops were the victors. However, the real victory for Harrison was the knowledge that Tecumseh, his long time rival, had been killed in action. Nobody was absolutely positive about who had done the deed, but a sword and hat belonging to a colonel named Richard M. Johnson was found near the body. Additionally, from the angle it appeared that Tecumseh was shot by someone who was mounted on a horse, and Johnson was one of the few men riding during the battle. Upon further investigation, it was determined that the leader had been killed by two buckshot and a regular pistol ball, a unique combination often used by Colonel Johnson. All of this evidence lead everyone to come to believe that it was Johnson who had killed Tecumseh, something he used to his advantage when running for office.

* Johnson's first political position was as a member of the Kentucky House of Representatives. After serving in that body for several years, in 1806, he was elected a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Johnson fought in the war of 1812, but he continued to serve as a congressman until 1819. Though he left the House that year, he returned to Congress as a senator a few months afterward, having replaced John J. Crittenden after his resignation. Johnson served the remainder of Crittenden's term and then was elected for his own term several years later. He left the senate in 1829 after failing to be re-elected. After his loss, he returned to the other house of Congress before he was elected vice president in 1836.

* Influenced by his close friend John Cleaves Symmes, Jr., Johnson proposed a bill to the Senate that would create an expedition to the center of the Earth. The two believed that the Earth was hollow and that there were gaping holes at each of the planet's poles, which someone could travel down through and reach its core. Needless to say, the motion was defeated.

* As time progressed, it became evident that Johnson was very mentally unstable and was detrimental to his political party. In fact, he became so much of a liability that the Democrats refused to re-nominate him as their vice presidential candidate in 1840. Instead, Martin Van Buren went into the election without a running mate. Still, Johnson went on campaigning for his own re-election. During his campaign, Johnson demonstrated some very bizarre behavior. On one occasion, Johnson lifted up his shirt to show spectators a wound he had received in the War of 1812. One of his speeches was so unorthodox that it started an actual riot. Neither Van Buren or Johnson ended up being re-elected, with the victory going to the Harrison-Tyler ticket.

* Several times after the end of his vice presidency Johnson ran for public office, each time shot down by voters and members of his own party. Finally, in 1850, he managed to return to politics by being re-elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives. By this time however, Johnson had developed full-out dementia. He was always making nonsensical speeches and talking incoherently, and his fellow representatives knew that he was unfit for office. Condemned by his colleagues and the press, he suffered a fatal stroke less than a month into his term.

Second Lady: None
      - Spouse: Julia Chinn (common-law wife) (      -1833)

Political Party:
Democratic Party

Served Under:
Martin Van Buren

Last Words:

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