Originally created 02/22/98

Presidents visited city frequently

I cannot tell a lie. -- George Washington

Today might not be Presidents Day, but it is the time of year we celebrate the birth of George Washington, not only the first chief executive, but the first to visit Augusta.

Given that, what better day to recall the other presidents who, for one reason or another, have come to see our city on the river?

The list is actually pretty long. If you remember when Bill Clinton dropped in last year, he cited a report in this newspaper that it would be easier to remember the presidents who had not come to Augusta, than to remember all the ones who had.

Mr. Clinton, himself, was on his second visit. The first came during his 1992 campaign.

It actually was Augusta's reputation for golf that has attracted most presidents in this century.

Warren Harding was one of the first, using his 1923 visit as an excuse to try out the local links.

President Eisenhower, an avid golfer and member of the Augusta National Golf Club, came to the Garden City dozens of times.

Presidents Reagan and Bush also came to Augusta with golfing on their minds, though Mr. Reagan's 1983 visit was disrupted when a gunman crashed the gate of the club.

Equally disrupted was Lyndon Johnson's 1964 visit. He was heckled and booed at the Augusta Municipal Building and his rival, Barry Goldwater, carried the city in the November election, although LBJ seemed to carry everything else.

Jimmy Carter visited before taking office, just like Woodrow Wilson, who spent 13 years of his young life growing up on what is now Seventh Street.

Franklin Roosevelt visited Warm Springs, Ga., often, but it is believed he only spent one night in Augusta during his presidency, and that was on a presidential rail car.

William Howard Taft liked Augusta and visted several times, including a 1909 visit in which he spoke to 1,000 at Tabernacle Baptist Church.

William McKinley came a century ago, drawing enthusiastic crowds in 1898.

Zachary Taylor visited in 1850, the second year of his shortened term in office.

In 1849 Martin Van Buren became the first former president to visit, followed by former President Millard Fillmore in 1854, Ulysses S. Grant in 1880 and Rutherford B. Hayes in 1891.

James Monroe rode into town in 1819 with a small entourage inspecting our defenses.

Still, that first visit by our first president is probably the most memorable.

George Washington came here in 1781. (Where he slept is debatable.) But he did take part in several functions, including an inspection of students at Richmond Academy.

There is a wonderful story that I have seen in various history books that his dog, "Cornwallis," died during the visit and was buried here beneath a marker discovered almost a century ago.

What happened to that marker is a mystery. But it's been pointed out that the newspaper account of that discovery was on an April 1, so perhaps it was just a hoax -- an April Fool's joke on the first, and perhaps the last, president known for telling the truth.


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