Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned 39 years ago today, Oct. 10, 1973, the only U.S. veep to step down voluntarily because of criminal charges. But he is hardly the only vice president to leave the office under a cloud of embarrassment, disappointment or controversy. So, on the eve of this week's vice presidential debate, here are some vice presidents who came up short one way or another.
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Spiro Agnew served under the Nixon administration from 1969 to1973. During his fifth year in office, in 1973, the U.S. Attorney's office in Baltimore -- his hometown -- launched an investigation of the vice president. Charges later included extortion, fraud, bribery and conspiracy.
He officially resigned Oct. 10, 1973, after the U.S. Justice Department exposed widespread evidence of his alleged political corruption. Agnew pleaded no contest to income tax evasion on the condition that he resign.
Heated political rivalry has found a home in elections past and present. But Aaron Burr, who was serving as the vice president to President Thomas Jefferson, took his arguments to the extreme in 1804 when he shot and killed fellow founding-father Alexander Hamilton in a duel.
The duel took place July 11 in Weehawken, N.J., between Republican Burr and federalist Hamilton, who constantly battled in the political arena. At the time, Hamilton was the former secretary of the treasury. He and Burr constantly clashed because it is said that had it not been for Hamilton's interference and support for Jefferson, Burr might have been president.
Jefferson dropped Burr from the ticket after the shooting, ending his political career.
Andrew Johnson had big shoes to fill, having accepted the presidency after the assassination of his running mate, Abraham Lincoln. But when he was VP, Johnson embarrassed his running mate by showing up drunk to his inaugural speech.
Johnson attended Lincoln's 1865 inauguration in a drunken stupor after supposedly downing three glasses of whiskey. Johnson, whose inebriation was evident to the president and the rest of the audience, drunkenly took the oath of office, and kissed the Bible. But when it was time for him to swear in the new senators, it's said that he had to turn the job over to a Senate clerk because he was so confused.
"The inauguration went off very well except that the Vice President Elect was too drunk to perform his duties & disgraced himself & the Senate by making a drunken foolish speech," Michigan Republican Sen. Zachariah Chandler wrote of the disappointing episode. "I was never so mortified in my life, had I been able to find a hole I would have dropped through it out of sight."
|William Rufus King|
William Rufus King served as the vice president under Franklin Pierce from 1853 to 1853. King only held office for six weeks before dying of tuberculosis.
But his short-lived term was a rather unusual one in that he is the only vice president of the United States to have taken the oath of office on foreign soil. King, who was already terminally ill before taking office, left for the more salutary climate of Cuba, reaching Havana in early February 1853. As his condition grew worse and his inauguration grew near, King realized that he would be unable to attend his own inauguration in Washington March 4, 1853. Because of his weakened condition, King was permitted to take his oath of office in Cuba.
|John C. Calhoun|
Running for re-election is hard enough but imagine when your running mate partners up with the opponent during re-election. John C. Calhoun was a representative and a senator from South Carolina, and also the vice president under John Quincy Adams -- and his opponent Andrew Jackson.
In 1824, Calhoun served as vice president of the United States under John Quincy Adams, and then during Adams' bid for re-election in 1828, Calhoun shifted his allegiance before being elected as vice president under Andrew Jackson. Betraying one running mate didn't seem to be enough for Calhoun when, in 1832, he burned his bridges with his second running mate by deciding to resign from Jackson's administration.