Garfield, James A.

Garfield, James A. (Abram)

(1831–81) twentieth U.S. president; born in Orange, Ohio. Born in poverty, he worked his way up to an education at Williams College and careers as a lay preacher and a lawyer, then moved into politics. He served briefly in the Ohio senate (1859–61) before taking a commission in the Civil War, during which he led units with distinction. He left the army to enter the U.S. House of Representatives (1863–80), representing Ohio as a conservative Republican leader. In 1880 he won the presidential nomination as a compromise candidate in a convention torn among several factions; with his running mate, Chester A. Arthur, he won a close election over war hero Winfield Scott Hancock. Garfield then proceeded to outrage many Republicans with his patronage appointments; the immediate result was his being shot by Charles Guiteau, a deranged office-seeker (July 1881); with a bullet in his back, Garfield lingered for 79 days before dying.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.