Presidential Inbreeding: Are All U.S. Presidents Related?

Octopus King - the genealogy of related presidents (Illustration By: Matt Wainwright)

Octopus King – the genealogy of related presidents (Illustration By: Matt Wainwright)

Does anybody else wish we could be done with all Bushes, Clintons and Kennedys? No more Roosevelts, Harrisons or Adamses?

As it turns out, ruling dynasties formed by centuries of incestuous coupling aren’t just for European monarchies. Here in America, we have our own “royal” families, a certain posterity who just can’t seem to keep their posteriors away from the seat of power.

Although no U.S. president has ever been directly related to the president that he immediately follows or who immediately follows him, some have come pretty close:

  • George W. Bush (#43) was the son of George H. W. Bush (#41).
  • John Quincy Adams (#6) was the son of John Adams (#2).
  • Benjamin Harrison (#23) was the grandson of William Henry Harrison (#9).
  • James Madison (#4) and Zachary Taylor (#12) were second cousins.
  • Franklin Delano Roosevelt (#32) was a fifth cousin of Theodore Roosevelt (#26)

The presidential bloodline runs especially deep for our longest-serving president. Genealogists have determined that FDR was related to a total of 11 presidents, five by blood or and six through marriage: John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Ulysses S. Grant, William Henry Harrison, Benjamin Harrison, James Madison, Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, Zachary Taylor, Martin Van Buren and George Washington.

But it gets better. In 2012, a 12-year-old girl in California traced the lineage of all but one American President back to King John, who ruled England from 1166 to 1216. King John “Lackland” Plantaganet signed the Magna Carta in 1215, limiting the monarch’s power and helping form the British Parliament. According to the pre-teen, only one president was not related to King John – Martin Van Buren (#8), who has Dutch roots. (He was known as the “OK” president. Seriously.) If her research is true, it appears that all but one of the U.S. presidents are cousins. Kissing cousins. Of related royal bloodlines. Descended from European monarchs. So much for the Revolutionary War of independence

The Face of the Voice of the DC Metro

Randi Miller - from singing telegram to car dealer intercom to most heard voice in our nation's capital

Randi Miller – from singing telegram to car dealer intercom to most-heard voice in our nation’s capital

The most frequently heard voice in our nation’s capital isn’t the enunciated clip of Barack Obama or the smoker’s rasp of House Speaker John Boehner. It’s the sultry intonations of Randi Miller, the voice of DC Metro, who also happens to be an auto lease retention manager from Woodbridge, Va.

Randi’s voice is played 33,017 times a day in 86 Metro subway stations spanning DC, Maryland and Virginia. It’s Randi’s voice you hear just before the Metro doors snap shut on your bag with a thud – “Doors closing.”

Randi Miller’s voice was not the first to reverberate throughout Washington’s subway system though. Back in 1996, DC resident Sandy Carroll made a recording in her apartment as a favor to a friend, a recording that was to be the gentle voice of Metro for a decade.

Sandy Carroll - former voice of the Metro (1996-2006)

Sandy Carroll – former voice of the Metro (1996-2006)

In 2006, Metro decided to change its tone by announcing the “Doors Closing Voice 2006” contest to find a new voice for the Metrorail trains. The voice of Sandy had seemingly faded into the background, and Metro needed a more authoritative voice to nudge its passengers along. Anyone over the age of 21 was eligible to compete.

Metro asked each contestant to record two messages in three tones of voice: polite, serious and authoritative. Several scripts were specifically written to deter notorious door-blockers: “One arm. One leg. One briefcase. One purse … can delay everyone.” Another script began with “Jeepers, Batman! Did you see that person just shove their briefcase in the doors?”

The “Doors Closing” contest attracted 1,259 contestants from across the country, some from as far away as Seattle. Metro reviewed the CD submissions and narrowed the field. Of the 10 finalists, all lived in the metropolitan area and half rode Metro regularly. The contestants’ reward for making it to the Top 10: a DC edition of Monopoly.

The stage was now set for a studio showdown. Each finalist recorded new messages in a professional studio near Dupont Circle: a 10-minute recording session under the guidance of a creative director from Arlington’s LM&O Advertising.

Three judges – the head of marketing for Metro, the advertising creative director and a former local anchorwoman – listened to the recordings to select the new voice. On Feb. 2, 2006, Metro announced its winner.

Chosen for the honor of being the new voice of Metrorail trains – and it is only an honor – Randi Miller, like Sandy Carroll before her, didn’t receive a dime for her efforts. Her recording was simply loaded onto a chip and placed in Metro’s more than 950 train cars.

Although Randi’s a lifelong singer who’s delivered singing telegrams, her only previous broadcast experience had been over the intercom at the Alexandria car dealership where she works. But after landing the Metro gig, her vocal career took off. Now her voice can be heard at kiosks in the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History, aquariums across the country and even radio commercials. She’s also used her voice to raise more than $250,000 for charities including Central Hospice, the Duffy Project and the Thomas G. Larbrecque Foundation.

Although she’s an infrequent subway rider, Randi still finds it weird to hear her voice on the trains. “When it first started running on the trains, I couldn’t wait to hear it. I wanted to see how it sounded,” she said. “And it was so annoying to me when I heard it. Maybe because it’s me. Maybe because … maybe just because it’s me.”

TRUMPed! Old Post Office Closes for New Hotel

A view southwest from the Old Post Office Tower on a gloomy day in Oct. 2013 (Photo By: Matt Wainwright)

A view southwest from the Old Post Office Tower on a gloomy day in Oct. 2013 (Photo By: Matt Wainwright)

Goodbye, Old Post Office Tower. We’ll miss you and your most spectacular views of Washington, DC. See you in 2016.

Today the Old Post Office at 12th and Pennsylvania Avenue closed to make way for the latest glitzy jewel in a certain real estate developer’s gilded empire.

In 2013, the federal government’s General Services Administration signed a $200 million, 60-year deal to rent the building to infamous real estate mogul Donald Trump. The GSA had been paying about $12 million annually to operate the building while collecting only about $5 million in rent. Now, with the operating expenses handed off to Trump, the GSA will collect about $3.33 million a year in rent.

Trump’s daughter Ivanka said her father plans to renovate the Old Post Office into “the finest luxury hotel in the world.” If it’s anything like the glittery Trump establishments in Atlantic City, be prepared to wear your sunglasses inside. Following a $200 million overhaul, this grand old mailroom will reopen in 2016 as the Trump International Hotel.

Old Post Office (Photo By: Matt Wainwright)

Old Post Office (Photo By: Matt Wainwright)

Although your average tourists will not be able to afford a stay at the Trump, they will still be able to go up into the tower to the observation deck when the building reopens in 2016. The National Park Service will retain the rights to allow public access to the wonderful views. And, if we’re lucky, the Donald won’t require black people to present their birth certificates when entering his hotel. Welcome to Chocolate City, Donald!

DC’s first skyscraper, the Old Post Office at 12th and Pennsylvania Avenue opened in 1899. It was the first government building on Pennsylvania Avenue and the first building in town to boast having its own electric power plant.

At 315 feet, the Old Post Office Tower is the second-tallest structure in DC, following the Washington Monument. For those missing the tower’s sky-high views, don’t fret. The Washington Monument reopens on May 12, after years of repairs following the 2011 earthquake that rocked DC.

Here’s a last glimpse of the Old Post Office Pavilion, after the shops and food court had closed forever.

Old Post Office Pavilion in Feb. 2014 (Photo By: heydayjoe)

Old Post Office Pavilion in Feb. 2014 (Photo By: heydayjoe)

DC as Canvas: “Marvin” Mural Brings Architectural Healing

"Marvin" by Aniekan Udofia (Photo By: heydayjoe)

“Marvin” by Aniekan Udofia (Photo By: heydayjoe)

Artist Aniekan Udofia created his Marvin Gaye mural in DC, “Marvin,” in September 2013 as part of a citywide mural project sponsored by Heineken. This tribute to Marvin Gaye** graces the east wall of 711 S Street NW, just west of the Shaw–Howard University Metro station.

“Art makes a random place a landmark,” says Udofia of street art. To prove it, he’s created new landmarks all over DC.

Perhaps known best locally for his murals and large-scale paintings, Udofia gained national prominence for his photorealistic illustrations and caricatures appearing in urban publications such as Vibe, The Source and XXL.

Though he was born in DC in 1976, Udofia’s parents returned their young family to Nigeria soon after completing their education in the States. Growing up in southeast Nigeria as part of the Ibibio tribe, regarded as the most ancient of Nigeria’s ethnic groups, Udofia was heavily inspired by a local culture blended with American hip hop. He never attended art school, and he never received any formal training. A love of art, music and visual expression keeps his artwork flowing.

He most recently exhibited paintings and custom pieces for the “WAT-AAH! Taking Back the Streets” exhibit at DC’s Long View Gallery. To learn more about Udofia and his vivid street art, click here.

(Photo By: heydayjoe)**[Marvin Gaye was born in DC. He first grew up in a house at 1617 First Street SW and then in his teens relocated to the Deanwood neighborhood, where he attended Cardozo High School in Columbia Heights. At Cardozo, he joined his first band, D.C. Tones.]

UPDATE: As of August 20, 2014, the Marvin Gaye mural is being covered over by construction of a two-unit condo building in the adjacent lot. Artist Udofia says that a new mural is in the works. Details to come…

J. Edgar Hoover Ends FBI Legacy Behind Bars

J. Edgar Hoover's gravesite at Congressional Cemetery (Photo By: heydayjoe)

J. Edgar Hoover’s gravesite at Congressional Cemetery (Photo By: heydayjoe)

J. Edgar Hoover, longtime Director of the FBI – the man who spent his life putting others behind bars – spends his eternity behind bars at Congressional Cemetery on the west bank of the Anacostia River in Southeast Washington.

The only civil servant to be honored with a state funeral, Hoover served as the head of the FBI for 48 years, from 1924 until his death in 1972. Though his legacy is tainted because of the illegal methods of infiltration, planted evidence and burglaries he condoned, his name is carved in stone at the FBI headquarters on Pennsylvania Avenue.

A master of blackmail (not to mention bigotry), Hoover loved illegally wire-tapping people to get dirt on them, especially those he detested. He spent countless agent hours and taxpayer dollars snooping on Martin Luther King, determined to prove him dangerous by proving him immoral. And he hated author John Steinbeck so much (convinced that he was a red Communist) that he had the IRS audit him every year.

To J. Edgar, the highest realms of patriotism and virtue were reflected in his personal prejudices and wholesome lifestyle.

J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson enjoy a ride in Atlantic City, NJ.

J. Edgar Hoover and Clyde Tolson enjoy a ride in Atlantic City, NJ.

A lifelong bachelor and creature of habit, J. Edgar ate lunch at the same hotel restaurant every workday for 20 years with the same companion, his lifelong friend and FBI protégé Clyde Tolson. (The Mayflower Hotel’s restaurant is now named Edgar Bar & Kitchen in his honor.) He never strayed from his daily order – chicken soup, white toast, half a grapefruit, cottage cheese and Bibb lettuce – and he never tipped back a martini. A teetotaler, Hoover forbade the use of intoxicating beverages by any FBI agent, on or off the job.

In his quest to get “subversive” Americans, J. Edgar didn’t have time for frivolity. Even a party song like the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie” aroused suspicion. For two and a half years he had his underlings investigate the song to find hidden sexual messages. The process included interviews with author Richard Berry and members of The Kingsmen as well as repeated listenings of the song at various speeds. The verdict: The study found no evidence of obscenity, concluding that the song was “unintelligible at any speed.”

A DC native, J. Edgar was reportedly born in 1895 at 413 C Street SE, later known as 413 Seward Square SE and now the site of the Capitol Hill United Methodist Church. We say “reportedly” because, unlike his two siblings, there is no record of his birth. As a teen, he competed on the debate team and sang in the school choir at Central High School, now known as Cardozo. He later obtained both his law degree and his Masters of Law at George Washington University.

From 1940 until his death in 1972, J. Edgar lived at 4936 30th Place NW (Forest Hills), where he kept files on Supreme Court justices, members of Congress and U.S. presidents. When the current owners moved in, they had the bulletproof-glass windows removed.

When Hoover died, Tolson – his lunch buddy, life partner and possible lover – inherited his estate and moved into the house. Tolson is also buried at Congressional Cemetery, a few yards from J. Edgar.

Burial sites are still available to the general public.

2000-Year-Old 7-Year-Old Saint

Though most of the skeletal remains of St. Innocent are hidden inside the dress, the bones of his hands and feet are visible, and it’s not gross at all. (Photo By: heydayjoe)

Though most of the skeletal remains of St. Innocent are hidden inside the dress, the bones of his hands and feet are visible, and it’s not gross at all. (Photo By: heydayjoe)

A frequent refrain of those touring the real Roman Catacombs is “Hey! I wanna see a dead body.” At the replicated Roman Catacombs in DC, you’re in luck. Deep beneath the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in America in upper Northeast DC lie the remains of a martyred 7-year-old from the second century, St. Innocent. How does a second-grader become a martyr for his faith? We’ll never know. What we do know is that he was found buried with two adults, ostensibly his parents – some parents enter their kids in pageants, others push for martyrdom – and that his body was found holding a palm frond, which marked him as a martyr.

Clad in an elaborate beaded dress, St. Innocent also wears a wig and a wax mask to hide and protect his skull. Given the dress and the mask’s plucked eyebrows and pink lip gloss, you’ve got to wonder how the little martyr would have felt if his schoolmates ever saw him in this getup (girls = yucky; martyrdom = cool).

St. Benignus, a Roman soldier who was beheaded for his faith, is also entombed here. Well, most of him is – his skull is still in Italy. Both saints were originally buried in the real Roman Catacombs, 900 miles of underground passageways where Christians buried their dead.

All the Presidents’ Pooches

George Washington dog Drunkard

(Illustration By: Matt Wainwright)

George Washington had a dog named Drunkard, John Adams had a dog named Satan and Abraham Lincoln had a dog named Fido. (Fido never made it to DC because Lincoln didn’t think he’d survive the trip; Fido ended up outliving him.)

Harry Truman once said, “You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog.” When someone did give him a dog for Christmas in 1947, a cocker spaniel named Feller, Truman regifted him to his personal physician. Feller became nationally known as the Unwanted Dog.

Warren Harding’s dog, Laddie Boy, on the other hand, was considered an essential part of the administration. Laddie Boy sat in on high-level cabinet meetings in a hand-carved chair and even had a White House birthday party in which all the neighborhood dogs were invited to dine on dog biscuit birthday cake.

Perhaps no White House pup, however, was more acclaimed than Franklin Roosevelt’s Scottish terrier Fala. His original name was Big Boy; Franklin renamed him Murray the Outlaw of Falahill after a famous Scottish ancestor, or Fala, for short. A movie star, military member, politico and would-be diplomat, Fala was featured in an MGM film about a typical day in the White House, named an honorary Army private, given his own press secretary and brought along onboard the USS Augusta for the signing of the Atlantic Charter with Churchill in 1941.

Yes, some dogs have more illustrious careers than yours. George H.W. Bush’s springer spaniel Millie released a book, ghost-written by First Lady Barbara Bush, that outsold George’s biography.

Most presidential dogs, though, are just dogs – some with genuinely good names. James Garfield had a black Newfoundland named Veto. Calvin Coolidge had a pair of white collies, Rob Roy and Prudence Prim. Herbert Hoover had a German shepherd named King Tut, an elkhound named Weejie, an Irish wolfhound named Patrick and fox terriers named Big Ben and Sonnie. Richard Nixon had three dogs with him at the White House, a poodle named Vicky, a terrier named Pasha and an Irish setter named King Timahoe. Besides Drunkard, George Washington had more than 30 hounds, including Tipler, Tipsy and Vulcan.

But no president was more humble in naming his dogs than Lyndon Johnson, with his beagles Him and Her. A good ol’ boy to the bone, Johnson got into some deep doo with dog lovers in 1964 when he picked up his beagles by the ears in front of reporters. “Why’d you do that?” one reporter asked. “To make him bark,” Johnson replied. “It’s good for him. And, if you’ve ever followed dogs, you like to hear them yelp.”

LBJ-dogs-Him-Her-DC

The Street of the Righteous Gentile

(Image By: heydayjoe)

(Image By: heydayjoe)

Renamed by an Act of Congress in 1985, Raoul Wallenberg Place SW is the stretch of 15th Street SW on which the Holocaust Museum is located.

While serving as Sweden’s special envoy in Budapest from July to December 1944, Raoul Wallenberg successfully rescued tens of thousands of people from certain death by issuing protective passports and sheltering Hungarian Jews in buildings that he rented and designated as official Swedish territory. He was later arrested by Soviet authorities on suspicion of espionage and died at the hands of the KGB in 1947.

One of the thousands saved by Wallenberg was U.S. House Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif., in office 1981-2008), the only Holocaust survivor to have served in the U.S. Congress.

Other streets named after Wallenberg include Raoul Wallenberg Street in Jerusalem, Place Raoul Wallenberg in Montreal, Raoul Wallenberg Boulevard in Charleston, S.C., and Raoul Wallenberg Avenue in Trenton, N.J.

It’s not surprising that many countries want to claim this heroic guy as their own: Wallenberg is an honorary citizen of the United States (the second, after Winston Churchill), Israel, Hungary, Australia and Canada (the first honorary citizen of Canada).