Winter 2000
Vol. 17 No. 4
Publication Number:
USPS 244-800


National Model of Excellence

Soldier and Soldat

Studying Guide-by-Your-Side

Love Those Statistics!

These Were Close, Too

Other Stories
Willingness to Change Made Education School Most Effective

Faculty Compendium

Watching for Patent Expiration Dates Can Save Consumers on prescription Drug Costs

Bennett Cites Influence of a Great Teacher, Dean Percy Burns

A Cappella Choir CD Available

Floyd, Marler Receive $56,000 Lilly Fellows Program Grant

Debow, Sansom Get $32,000 Award from Atlas, Templeton

Samford Honors Alabama Ministers
Scofields Rate a Homecoming Cheer
for Loyal Support of Their Alma Mater

Crimson Editors Half a Century Apart
Find Differences, Similarities in the Job

Having a ball at Homecoming

Men's Cross-Country Team Wins Second TAAC Title; Kolb Named All-TAAC Freshman After Nine-Goal SeasonCLASS NOTES


Winter 2000

Most Presidential Elections Produce a Clear Winner,
but 2000 Not the Only Tightly Contested Race

While the 2000 presidential election may be the most thoroughly covered by the media, it is neither the closest in history nor the contest requiring the longest to decide. But it has similarities to another famous close election: the 1876 contest in which Florida played a role in electing a minority president.

The closest election occurred in 1800, when Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson tied with 73 electoral votes each. The House of Representatives chose Jefferson after deadlocking itself 19 times.

The election requiring the longest to decide was the 1876 contest, when Rutherford Hayes was declared president over popular vote winner Samuel Tilden the following March. The margin of 185-184 occurred after weeks of political maneuvering, culminating in a deal to remove the last federal troops from the South, ending Reconstruction.

Tilden led in electoral votes, 184-165, with 20 votes still out, including 19 from South Carolina, Louisiana and Florida, and one from Oregon.

"The trouble began when Republican-dominated canvassing boards threw out Democratic votes in South Carolina, Louisiana and Florida," said Dr. John R. Mayfield, Samford history department chair. "The Democrats sent theirs, and Congress responded by establishing a 'bipartisan panel' of five senators, five representatives and five Supreme Court justices, which of course split 8-7 along party lines and gave the whole thing to Hayes."

The decision could have been invalidated if both the House and Senate rejected it. The House did so, but not the Senate.

"Southern Democrats said they wouldn't filibuster to prevent Hayes from taking office in return for three things," said Dr. Lee N. Allen, University historian. "The Republicans agreed to remove the troops, give railroad subsidies for a southern route to the Pacific and appoint a Southern Democrat to the Cabinet."

The troops were removed and Tennessean David Key was appointed postmaster general, but the railroad subsidy never materialized, said Allen.

What was the result of the 1876 outcome? "Hayes served one unhappy term," said Mayfield.

Most presidential elections have returned clear winners. Democrat Al Gore is only the third losing candidate to have a popular majority against the winner, the others being Tilden and Grover Cleveland against Benjamin Harrison in 1888.

But the nation has witnessed several other close races of note, in addition to the elections of 2000, 1876 and 1800.

1824-Andrew Jackson gained 99 electoral votes, John Quincy Adams 84, William Crawford 41 and Henry Clay 37. With no candidate having the majority, the decision
went to the House of Representatives. Clay, the House speaker, threw his support to Adams, who was elected. Adams then named Clay secretary of state, and Jacksonians charged the two had made a "corrupt bargain."

Did they?

"There's no way to know for sure," said Mayfield. "We know Adams and Clay hated each other, but both hated Andrew Jackson even more."

1916-Four years earlier, Woodrow Wilson won when Teddy Roosevelt ran on a third-party ticket and split the Republican vote. Wilson ran for re-election, and the Republicans, trying to reunite with Roosevelt's blessing, nominated Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes, who ran a strong race, especially on the East Coast. Hughes went to bed thinking he had won, but a possible gaffe in California may have cost him the election.

"Hughes had passed California Governor Hiram Johnson [who had been Roosevelt's 1912 vice-presidential candidate] in a public building and, whether he meant to or not, failed to stop and shake hands," said Allen. "Word got around, and it was seen as a snub."

Hughes lost California by about 4,000 votes, and with it, the election, 277-254.

1960-Richard Nixon, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower's vice president, opposed John Kennedy in the campaign that introduced televised presidential debates. The popular vote was close, with a difference of about 120,000 out of 68 million cast. Nixon at first challenged the count, but quickly dropped his protest. The electoral count was 303-219, but a change in New York's 45 votes would have given Nixon the White House.

Ironically, many felt Eisenhower-who had served since 1952-could have won a third term, had the Republicans earlier not pushed through the 22nd Amendment limiting presidents to two terms.