Eccentricity At the Top:<br>Richard Mentor Johnson
Entreaties were made to Johnson to drop out, but he declined. Van Buren feared that a split would hurt his own reelection chances. Johnson did still have his support among workingmen in the North. This time, the Whigs were united around a single candidate, General William Henry Harrison. Other Democrats feared the impact of dropping their war hero from the ticket when competing against war hero Harrison. The result was a bizarre compromise. The Democrats simply nominated no one for vice-president. That would be left to the electors, or ultimately, perhaps, once again the senate.
Reports were that Johnson dug into the campaign more than the aloof Van Buren or much of anyone else. Never afraid to employ his war history, he was said on occasion to pull up his shirt in front of audiences to display his war wounds. It was to no avail. Harrison and the Whigs swept to an easy victory, also gaining control of the House and Senate, and even carrying Johnson’s home district in Kentucky. Harrison’s running mate, John Tyler, was elected to Johnson’s position as vice-president. Ironically, while Johnson wielded little power in the office, barely a month later, Tyler would become president when Harrison died after serving the shortest presidential term in U.S. history.
Johnson’s career was over. He would attempt to return to the senate twice more, in 1842 and 1848, but was both times rejected, the second time losing to old rival Clay. In 1844, he made an attempt to secure the presidential nomination, but with Jackson and most everyone else opposed, the campaign went nowhere. He may have hoped this would lead to another vice-presidential nomination, but the party had no interest in this either. He finally returned to public office one more time when local voters elected him to the state legislature, where he started 46 years earlier. The year was 1850, but his health was now in serious decline. Johnson was in office less than two weeks when he died on November 19, 1850. He is buried in the Frankfort (Kentucky) Cemetery, also the final resting place of Daniel Boone (Johnson was a pallbearer when Boone, who died in 1820, was re-interred in the Frankfort Cemetery in 1845). Boone is said to get many visitors, but few are familiar with Richard Mentor Johnson or are even aware that a United States vice-president lies not far away.