US Presidents Who Served The Shortest Time In Office

An "X" marking the spot where President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Editorial credit: Allen.G /
An "X" marking the spot where President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Editorial credit: Allen.G /

Death, assassination, and replacement of the former Presidents have resulted in the shortest terms served by some of the US Presidents. The president is elected through the Electoral College to serve for a four-year term and eligible for another term. The 22nd amendment of 1951 sets the limit of the presidency and prohibits anyone seeking a third full term presidency. The amendment also prohibits anyone from seeking election to the presidency more than once if the individual had previously served in the office as president or was acting for more than two years. In total, 43 persons have served 44 presidencies that spanned 56 full four-year terms. The shortest sitting president was William Henry Harrison, serving for only 31 days. Harrison was also the first president to die while in office.

William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison, the 9th president, served the shortest time in US presidential history at only 31 days. Harrison came to office in 1841 to succeed Martin Van Buren and caught a cold that developed into pneumonia. He was the first president to die in office on April 4, 1841. His abrupt death caused a brief constitutional crisis regarding his succession. In the end, it was decided that the Vice President would succeed, John Tyler became the next President.

James A. Garfield

James A. Garfield was a Republican and the 20th president who served for 199 days in office. Garfield became the president when he garnered a margin of only 10,000 popular votes against the Democratic nominee, Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock. Garfield was shot on July 2, 1881, by an attorney who was embittered because he wanted a consular post. Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone, tried to locate the bullet but was unsuccessful. Garfield died on September 19, 1881, from infections and internal bleeding. He was succeeded by Chester A. Arthur.

Zachary Taylor

Zachary Taylor was the 12th president elected as a Whig and served from March 1849, until his death in July 1850, being in office for a total of 492 days. On July 4, 1850, Taylor fell ill and died within five days. His predecessor was James K. Polk and after his death, his successor was Millard Fillmore. 

Warren G. Harding

Warren G. Harding was the 29th President of the US. He was a Republican who won the presidential by an unprecedented landslide of 60% of the popular vote. Harding died in August 1923 of a heart attack after only 881 days in office. He was succeeded by Calvin Coolidge.

Gerald R. Ford

Gerald R. Ford was the 38th US president and was in office for 895 days. He was the first US president who was not elected. He took office on August 9, 1974, after the resignation of Richard Nixon following the Watergate Scandal. He had been appointed vice president a year earlier by Nixon. The 1976 elections, Ford lost to Jimmy Carter a Democrat and former governor of Georgia.

Millard Fillmore

Millard Fillmore was the 13th President of the US and a member of the Whig Party. He was also the last president of the US who was not affiliated either to the Republican or the Democrat parties. He assumed office after the sudden death of Zachary Taylor and was in office for a total of 969 days, and his successor was Franklin Pierce.

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy was the 35th President of the US and the youngest elected president. Kennedy was in office for 1,036 days. He was a Democrat who took office in 1961 and was assassinated on November 22, 1963, becoming the youngest president to die. Kennedy had succeeded Dwight D Eisenhower, and when he died, he was succeeded by Lyndon B. Johnson.

Chester A. Arthur

Chester A. Arthur was the 21st US President and was in office for 1,262 days after replacing James Garfield when he was assassinated. He was a Republican, and after his term, he was succeeded by Grover Cleveland.

Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson was the 17th US president he was a Democrat who took office after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and he served as the president for a total of 1,419 days. Johnson was impeached on February 24, 1868, after violating the Tenure of Office Act. 

John Tyler

John Tyler was the 10th president in the US and was in office for a total of 1,430 days after the death of President William Henry Harrison in April 1841. Tyler became the first Vice President to become President after the death of his predecessor. 

The 10 Shortest Sitting US Presidents

RankPresidentLength in daysOrder of presidency
1William Henry Harrison319
2James A. Garfield19920
3Zachary Taylor49212
4Warren G. Harding88129
5Gerald R. Ford89538
6Millard Fillmore96913
7John F. Kennedy1,03635
8Chester A. Arthur1,26221
9Andrew Johnson1,41917
10John Tyler1,43010

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