James Abram Garfield, the 20th President of America, was born on
19th November, 1831. His father Abram Garfield was a farmer and a worker in
canal construction. His mother was Eliza Ballou Garfield. They were New
Englanders and they had settled in the Western Reserve region, Northern
When James was only two years old, his father died. James had to
take the responsibility of his family at very early life. He had to do a lot of
work in the farm and found little leisure time to play. When he was sixteen, he
got a job in the canal boat.
Garfield had little formal education. In 1849, James enrolled his
name in Geauga Academy in Chester, Ohio. After a short stint of service as a
teacher, he enrolled in Western Reserve Eclectic Institute in Hiram, Ohio. By
continuing practice in teaching and preaching, James earned good amount of money
and enrolled in Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts. In 1858, after
graduation, he returned to Hiram College as a professor of ancient language and
James served as the president of Hiram until the outbreak of Civil
War. He got married to Lucretia Rudolph on 11th November, 1858. He started his
political career in 1859 as a member of the Republican Party, after winning
election to Ohio Senate.
James resigned from Hiram College and joined the Union army during Civil War. He
started as lieutenant-colonel of the Forty Second Ohio Volunteer Infantry. He
participated in the Battles of Chickamauga and Shiloh. While holding the rank of
major general, he resigned from the army on 5th December, 1863.
Since he was elected to the House of Representatives of USA by
Ohio voters, Garfield resigned from the commission. He became engaged in the
campaign for Presidential election in January 1880 after serving for nine
consecutive terms in the House of Representatives. He became the presidential
candidate on the 36th ballot as a “Dark Horse” nominee, due to a
deadlock in the Republican convention. He defeated Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock,
the Democratic candidate by a margin of 10,000 popular votes. Garfield was sworn
in to the office of the President on 4th March, 1881.
Unfortunately Garfield could not serve the full tenure and was
shot dead only after four months after he had taken over the office of the
President. He was shot while waiting for a train in Washington, by Charles
Joseph Guiteau, who was refused a political office under the administration of
Garfield. Seriously wounded, Garfield lay for weeks in the White House.
The famous man who invented telephone, Sir Alexander Graham Bell,
tried to locate the bullet with an induction electrical device designed by him.
However he was unsuccessful in his attempt. Garfield was taken to the seaside of
New Jersey on September 6. He seemed to be recovering well, but developed a
fatal infection and died on 19th September, 1881 from an internal
Though Garfield could serve for a short time, his successor
President Chester Alan Arthur was inspired by him and he reformed the public
system. The death of Garfield confused the Republican Party. They had to wait
for a majority status for fifteen years, void of any leader.