Presidential Succession

The U.S. Constitution is unclear on the issue of Presidential succession in the event of the vacancy of the Presidency. Did the office of President transfer to the Vice President, or did only the President’s “powers and duties” transfer?

In 1841, President William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia only four weeks after taking the oath of office, becoming the first President to die in office. When Vice President John Tyler took the Presidential oath of office the following month, was he actually the President or had he merely assumed the President’s “powers and duties”?

A member of the House of Representatives proposed an amendment to the resolution informing the President that the Congress was in session that would strike out the word “President” and replace it was “Vice President now exercising the office of President.”


Lyndon Baines Johnson taking the Presidential Oath of Office aboard Air Force One, November 22, 1963.

At 12:30 pm Central Standard Time, President John F. Kennedy was shot in while riding in a presidential motorcade with his wife Jacqueline, in Dallas, Texas. At 2:38 p.m. CST Vice President LBJ took the Presidential Oath of Office. Twenty-seven people squeezed into the sixteen-foot Air Force One cabin for the inauguration, the eighth non-scheduled inauguration since the presidency was established in 1789. The cabin was particularly hot since the air conditioning and power supply had been turned off to ensure a prompt takeoff.

25th Amendment

Joint Resolution Proposing the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution, July 6, 1965.