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Former U.S. President and Grandson Separated Only By Years

Updated: Jul 8

Harrison Ruffin Tyler has lived a long and prosperous life. A chemical engineer and preservationist, he co-founded ChemTreat, Inc., a Virginia-based producer of water treatment products. The Company was founded in 1968, has more than 1400 employees and annual revenues of $300 million.

Tyler was born in 1928, which is remarkable as he’s still with us at 95. More astounding is that his father, Lyon Gardiner Tyler, was born before the Civil War and died 89 years ago. You’re already onto the next fact I was about to write, right?

Yes, Harrison Ruffin Tyler's grandfather was John Tyler, 10th President of the United States, born in 1790. He was elected vice-president in 1841 under President William Henry Harrison (1773-1841).

Former U.S. President and Grandson Are Separated Only By Years
Harrison Ruffin Tyler

The Accidental President

Yes, Harrison is the president who gave a two-hour inauguration speech in the cold with no overcoat and died a month later, devolving the presidency to Tyler. Harrison Ruffin Tyler’s granddad hit his career stride at 51, reaching the pinnacle of his profession 183 years ago. He served one term (1841-1845) and passed away in 1862 at age 71.

I can only assume Harrison Ruffin Tyler is named after William Henry Harrison, but cannot confirm. His middle name is an ode to his mother’s maiden name, not Temptations lead vocalist David Ruffin as I initially thought.

President John Tyler

Let’s Have a Catch Pops

The saddest thing about Harrison’s life is that he never got to play catch with his grand pop like so many lucky young boys. Since major league baseball didn’t yet exist, it’s safe to say President Tyler didn’t have a mitt anyway.

Perhaps they shared a common interest in music. The elder Tyler lived during Beethoven’s lifetime, traveled extensively, and could have rubbed elbows with the German composer. 

Is Harrison Ruffin Tyler big on history? It’s unfortunate he couldn’t have bent grandpa’s ear about working with Abraham Lincoln, even though the 16th president was still a young lawyer when Tyler was president.

President and Grandson Separated Only By Years

President and Grandson Separated Only By Years

What a grandfather and grandson have genetically can’t match what they miss as a family. Imagine the heart-to-hearts the Tylers could have had about life before the combustion engine, electricity, automobiles, aircraft, moving pictures, telephone and television. 

Wouldn’t you have loved to be a fly on the wall had they discussed the War of 1812, Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and Iraq wars? Is there a bond between them? How could there not be? The former president and grandson are separated only by years.

Walking With History's Greatest

Each has lived among the world’s greatest historical figures, Harrison’s granddaddy was around when Mozart, Napoleon, and George Washington were alive, and Harrison has walked the Earth with Marilyn Monroe, Madonna and Justin Bieber.  

Since President Tyler passed, 16 states and 102 nations have been added to the mix, so he and his grandkid would have a lot to catch up on. The Tylers also missed out on the age-old rite of surfing the internet together and sending goodnight texts.

President and Grandson Are Separated Only By Years
President John Tyler

Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone

President Tyler was apparently quite the ladies man. Just check out his portraits. With 15, he fathered more children than any other U.S. president. Following the death of his first wife, Letitia, in 1841, Tyler married Julia Gardiner, 30 years his junior, in 1844. They went on to have seven children together, including Harrison’s father, Lyon Gardiner Tyler (1853-1935).

Lyon married twice during his lifetime. Following the death of his first wife, with whom he had three children, he married Sue Ruffin, 35 years his junior, in 1923. They had three more children, including Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. (1925–2020) and Harrison.

Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr.
Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr.

Keeping the Tyler Name in Good Standing

Harrison Ruffin Tyler lives in Virginia in a nursing home but has made a name for himself in business and philanthropy. In 2001, he donated $5 million to the College of William & Mary (John Tyler’s alma mater), which named its history department after him. If his grandfather was John Wilkes Booth, they would have named the psychology department after him.

The tenth U.S. President John Tyler was born 234 years ago and his grandson is still alive. FYI, Harrison no longer receives protection from the Secret Service. The Former Presidents Protection Act of 2012 limits protection “for former presidents and their families to 10 years if they served after 1997.”

You’re on your own, Harrison. Sounds like you’re doing alright. Not many can say that their grandfather was president, and friends with Thomas Jefferson. You did your grandfather proud, even if he wasn’t around to have a catch with you.



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