“I have no trouble with my enemies. I can take care of my enemies in a fight. But my friends – my friends – they’re the ones who keep me walking the floors at night.”
Warren G. Harding’s presidency and life is a reminder that integrity is more important than popularity. Our 29th President was handsome, bright, and well-liked. He had many friends, including politician Harry Daugherty who helped Harding make it to the White House.
But Harding didn’t seem particularly interested in serving the American people. He gambled away the White House china and spent his time golfing. He joined the Klu Klux Klan and threw poker parties. Worse, several members of his administration were involved in illegal activities. One of them left the country. Two cabinet members committed suicide. Another was sent to prison. Harding is generally thought of as one of the worst Presidents in U.S. history. His administration was among the most corrupt.
- Warren G. Harding was born on November 2, 1865 in Caledonia, Ohio.
- He graduated from Ohio Central College and became a newspaper man. He and two friends bought a failing newspaper and revived it.
- Harding married Florence Kling DeWolfe, daughter of the town banker. They had no children. Florence suffered from a chronic kidney condition and relied on s homeopath doctor.
- Harding was elected to the U.S. Senate. He was rarely seen in the Senate, preferring to spend time with his friends.
- As President, Harding organized a disarmament convention in Washington. He wanted to limit the size of navies and prevent wars in the future.
- Harding gave his friends from Ohio jobs in Washington. These people became known as the “Ohio Gang.”
- Harding was ill when he set out on a nationwide tour to Alaska at his wife’s insistence. He died of a heart attack in a hotel room along the way. After his death, rumors surfaced that he committed suicide or was poisoned by Florence. Today, historians think that Dr. Sawyer, who was old and blind, may have given him an incorrect dosage of heart stimulant.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Was Florence Harding similar to her husband in terms of integrity?
Answer: The daughter of a wealthy banker, Florence was independent and spunky. She worked hard to protect the rights of animals, World War I veterans, and women. She was caught telling untruths several times and showed poor judgement in choosing friends.
Visit the Miller Center to learn more about Warren G. Harding.