Some historians have called him principled and honest, but most say his presidency was ineffective. Robert Seager II’s biography, “And Tyler Too” (1963), called him “one of America’s most obscure chief executives.”
Tyler retired to his Virginia plantation after leaving the presidency. He sided with the Confederacy when the Civil War began in 1861 and was elected to the Confederate legislature. But he died in 1862, at age 71, before taking his seat.
Tyler fathered 15 children, the most of any American president — eight with his first wife, Letitia (Christian) Tyler, who died in 1842, and seven with Julia (Gardiner) Tyler, who was 24 when she married the 54-year-old president in 1844.
His 13th child, Lyon Gardiner Tyler, was president of William & Mary from 1888 to 1919; chartered in 1693, it is the nation’s second-oldest college, after Harvard. He married Anne Baker Tucker and had three children with her. She died in 1921. Two years later he married Sue Ruffin and had three more children: Lyon Jr., Harrison and Henry, who died in infancy.
Harrison Ruffin Tyler, who was born on Nov. 9, 1928, earned a degree in chemistry from William & Mary in 1949 and another in chemical engineering from Virginia Tech in 1951. In 1968, he co-founded an industrial water treatment business, ChemTreat.
He and his wife, Frances Payne Bouknight Tyler, who died in 2019, lived for many years at his Virginia ancestral home, Sherwood Forest Plantation. The plantation, a 1,600-acre National Historic Landmark on the James River in Charles City County, was built about 1730 and bought by President Tyler in 1842.