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David Rice Atchison

David Rice Atchison (August 11, 1807 - January 26, 1886) was a mid-19th century Senator from Missouri who is thought by some to have been President of the United States for one day.

Some believe he was President on Sunday, March 4, 1849, between the expiration of James Polk's term at noon on Sunday and the official oath of office taken by Zachary Taylor on Monday. The law at that time specified that the President was to be sworn in on March 4th, but President-elect Taylor refused to be sworn in on the Sabbath (Sunday). Atchison had been elected President Pro Tempore of the Senate a couple of days previously and would therefore technically be third in line of succession behind the President and Vice President. Since neither office was held by a person on that day, he is considered by some the President of the United States for that period. However none of the legal requirements for replacing the President with the President pro tempore were fulfilled and on Mar. 4, Atchison was not even technically president pro tempore since the 31st Congress had not yet started.

When asked what he did on this day, he commented "I went to bed. There had been two or three busy nights finishing up the work of the Senate, and I slept most of that Sunday."

Born in Frogtown (now named Kirklevington), Fayette County, Kentucky, Atchison was appointed to the United States Senate to replace a Missouri Senator that had just died. He held this office from 1843 to 1855. He became the first senator from western Missouri and at age 36 the youngest Missourian at that time to enter the U. S. Senate. Some biographers claim he was U. S. Vice President from April 18, 1853, until December 4, 1854, by right of succession upon the death of President Franklin Pierce's vice president, William R. King, but he never took a Vice Presidential oath of office.

He is buried in his home of Plattsburg, Missouri, where a statue honors him in front of the Clinton County Courthouse. His grave marker reads "David Rice Atchison -- President of the United States for One Day."

Atchison, Kansas is named for him. The town Atchison, Kansas subsequently gave its name to the famous Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad company.

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