MENANDS, NY --New York Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Renwick Payne honored Chester A. Arthur, the 21st President of the United States, in a wreath-laying ceremony at his gravesite in Albany Rural Cemetery here on his birthday, Oct. 5.
The presentation of a birthday tribute wreath on behalf of the President of the United States at Arthur's grave is an annual tradition for New York National Guard general officers. A New York National Guard general officer also places a wreath at the gravesite of President Martin Van Buren in Kinderhook every Dec. 4.
Payne, the New York National Guard's Director of Joint Staff, was joined by New York National Guard Chaplain (Col.) Eric Olsen and Command Sgt. Major Robert Van Pelt, along with an a contingent of Soldiers and a Color Guard for the short ceremony. Children from the local school also attended.
Arthur, was born on Oct. 5, 1829 and died on Nov. 18, 1886, was elected as vice president to President James Garfield. He became president on Sept. 19, 1881 when Garfield finally died from wounds sustained during an assassination attempt on July 2, 1881.
Born in Vermont, Arthur attended Union College in Schenectady for both his bachelors and advanced degrees and lived in Hoosick, New York. He taught school in Vermont and New York before becoming a lawyer. He was active in Republican politics and also served as the Judge Advocate General of the New York National Guard, then known as the militia. In this capacity he drafted a military law which restructured the organization.
During the Civil War he was appointed Quartermaster General of New York and was responsible for equipping and transporting 70 New York Volunteer Regiments, about 70,000 Soldiers, during his two years on the job. From 1871 to 1878 he was the chief Customs Inspector in New York City and the leader of the "Stalwart" wing of the Republican Party. He was elected vice president during the election of 1880.
During his time in office he promoted the first federal Civil Service Law, oversaw the implementation of the first law governing immigration, and organized an international conference to that set the prime meridian-used for determining a place on earth and for time keeping-as running through Greenwich, England. Arthur, who had been in poor health during the later part of his term, died of a cerebral hemorrhage less than a year after leaving office, and is buried next to his wife Ellen who died of pneumonia in 1880.