Statue of America's Only One-Day President
Whatever his merits as a lawyer, statesman, and rabble-rouser, David Rice Atchison will always be known as the guy who was President of the United States for just one day.
It says it right on the plaque beneath his statue: "President of United States One Day."
Atchison served as a U.S. senator from 1843 to 1855. As President Pro Tempore of the Senate on March 4, 1849, Atchison was shoved into the highest office in the land in a constitutional cusp between James K. Polk and Zachary Taylor. Polk's term had ended, but Taylor refused to be sworn in on a Sunday. That, in theory, left Atchison in charge for 24 hours until the ceremonies could take place.
The President Atchison Monument, a statue honoring Plattsburg's favorite son, stands in front of city hall. It's a typical politician bronze (though splattered with mustardy stains during our visit). We will never know what Atchison might have accomplished with a little more time as Commander in Chief. His influence on the Republic is debatable, since he reportedly spent most of his big day asleep.