Car accidents and U.S. presidents

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Dr. Cynthia Wachtell notes that a hundred people die each day on our roads, and many US presidents have connections to deadly car accidents:

For example Bill Clinton’s father, William Jefferson Blythe Jr., died in a car accident in May 1946. He was headed to Hope, Arkansas to see his pregnant wife. The future president, Bill Clinton, was born three months after the car crash. As a result Bill Clinton was raised not by his biological father but by a stepfather who was abusive.

If you look at George Bush, his wife, whose maiden name is Laura Welsh, was in a car accident two days after she turned seventeen. This was in November of 1963. She ran a stop sign near Midland, Texas and the car that she struck was being driven by her high school classmate and close friend Michael Dutton Douglas. He died at the scene. Laura Bush herself was thrown from her car. She was driving a Chevy. The friend was driving a Corvair. (The Corvair is the car that Ralph Nader singled out as being not safe at any speed.)

Barack Obama’s father was in three car accidents in Kenya. After the first accident he spent nearly a year in the hospital. In the second accident, he lost both of his legs. In the third accident, which occurred in November 1982, he died. Barrack Obama was twenty-one.

And Obama’s famous book Dreams From My Father — well the title tells so much about his quest to connect with this absent father.

And there is also Al Gore — his son Albert Gore III ran into a busy street in 1989 and was hit by a car. He was thrown thirty feet and nearly died. And Al Gore in his book An Inconvenient Truth writes, “Some events stay with you always and change the way you look at everything no matter how many years go by. My son’s serious accident was that kind of event for me. It turned my life upside down and shook it until everything fell out.”

Even more horrific was the accident which touched Joe Biden in December of 1972. His wife, one-year-old daughter, and two sons were in a car accident while they were out Christmas shopping in Delaware. His wife’s car was hit by a tractor-trailer and she and his year-old daughter were killed and his two sons were critically injured. This is something that he actually mentioned during the vice presidential debate where he said, “My wife was in an accident that killed my daughter and my wife and my two sons survived.” He’s talked about the anger and the pain he felt afterwards. And I believe that even now years later on the anniversary of that accident, which is December 18th, he doesn’t work in remembrance of the loss of his wife and his daughter.

The list continues.

Mitt Romney was in a deadly accident when he was twenty-one years old. He was serving as a Mormon missionary in France and he was the driver of a car in a head-on collision. He was driving a Citroen VS which at that point may or may not have had seat belts in the front seat. They weren’t mandatory until that year. There were six people riding in a five-passenger car, which meant that the person in the middle of the front passenger seat definitely couldn’t have been wearing a seat belt, and that’s who died in the accident. Her name was Liona Anderson. And she was the wife of the head of the missionary, the mission’s president. The mission’s president was injured. Mitt Romney himself was injured. He suffered a broken arm, and broken ribs, and a concussion and some facial injuries.

John McCain who was the presidential nominee before Romney, his first wife was in a horrible car accident. When he was held prisoner in North Vietnam, she was home visiting her family and was in a car accident in Philadelphia on Christmas Eve of 1969. She skidded on an icy road, hit a telephone pole and was thrown from her car. I think she was hospitalized for six months and had something like twenty-three operations over the course of two years. McCain didn’t know about this until he returned from Vietnam. She didn’t want to cause him further distress while he was there.

Another fatal car accident involving one of our presidential candidates, John Edwards, who ran for the democratic nominee in 2008 — his son Wade Edwards died at the age of sixteen when a gust of wind blew his jeep off the highway and flipped it in North Carolina in 1996.

It’s just haunting how many accidents there were.


  1. Dave says:

    The rational governing response to the horror of daily car accident deaths is to ban guns while subsidizing the production of large SUVs and trucks.

  2. Steven Affros says:

    Then there was President Theodore Roosevelt who, in 1902, was riding in a carriage in Pittsfield, Massachusetts which collided with a trolley car. Roosevelt was injured enough that he had to spend weeks in a wheelchair. A secret service agent who accompanied the President was killed in that accident.

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