Union’s own Chester A. Arthur, Class of 1848 and the country’s 21st president, was honored Monday on the 180th anniversary of his birth.
The New York National Guard placed a wreath at Arthur’s grave in Albany Rural Cemetery, followed by the presentation of colors. The United States military traditionally lays a wreath at the graves of U.S. presidents on their birthday.
The son of a Baptist minister, Arthur grew up in Union Village, N.Y. (Greenwich). In 1845 he entered Union College, where he was a member of Psi Upsilon and the Delphian Institute debating society. He was elected into Phi Beta Kappa his senior year.
A Republican, Arthur held several positions in New York state government and was nominated to be James Garfield’s vice president in 1880. He was sworn in as president on Sept. 20, 1881, a day after Garfield died from a gunshot wound.
Known as the “The Gentleman Boss” and the “Dude President” for his sense of style, Arthur died from a kidney ailment on Nov. 18, 1886, a year-and-a-half after leaving office, at his home in New York City. He is buried near his wife in Menands, N.Y., some 20 miles from his alma mater. His grave site remains the most visited spot in the cemetery.
The College houses a number of artifacts and other memorabilia from Arthur’s days as a student, along with other items such as a walnut and leather writing desk (rumored to have a secret liquor cabinet) used by President Stephen C. Ainlay.
The Chester Arthur statue stands outside the gate of Jackson’s Garden.