Living history spoke to a crowded conference room at the Williamson County Library on Feb. 10.
Lyon Tyler Jr. of Franklin and grandson of the nation's 10th president, John Tyler, provided lively commentary about his heritage and his family at the library on a sunny afternoon, Feb. 10.
Tyler infused his sense of humor in the civics lesson he delivered to the roomful of people whose ages spanned decades.
"My granddaddy was president from 1841 to 1845," Tyler began. "He was born in 1790."
Tyler related a story heard many times at family gatherings of the Tyler clan. "My great grandmother, the President's mother, said that when [John Tyler] was a year old, he reached up to the sky toward a full moon. She would say, 'I think that boy is going to be president of the United States. He's reaching for the sky.'"
The gathering of approximately 100 people chuckled as he regaled in telling a story from his childhood. "Being a presidential descendent, even as a small boy, I didn't want to hear anymore about it," he said, as he told of a chance meeting with a woman who was curious about his grandfather, the president.
"She asked me, 'Little boy are you going to be president when you grow up?' 'No. I'll bite your head off,' I said. Then she asked me, 'What would you do with the bones?' and I told her, 'I'll spit 'em out.'"
He chronicled his family tree with humorous anecdotes and recollections including tales of how his grandfather and Thomas Jefferson were roommates at The College of William and Mary and that they played fiddles together.
Regarding his scholarly endeavors, Lyon Tyler said of his grandfather, "He entered college at the age of 13 and graduated at 17. He delivered the valedictory address about women's rights. He was a man who believed in the equality of women, especially in the field of education."
John Tyler held the offices of governor of Virginia and U.S. senator and vice president before becoming president upon the death of William Henry Harrison, who died of pneumonia one month after taking the oath of office.
Although a loyal Democrat, John Tyler sought and was named the vice presidential candidate for the Whig party, (forerunner to the Republican party) as Harrison's running mate. Tyler had become disillusioned with his own party after Andrew Jackson's involvement with the Bank of the United States funding scam. Tyler ran on a platform of honesty and "said he would abide by the legislative laws" of the country. Congress originally censured Jackson for his role in diverting funds to the Bank of the United States, but later rescinded the censure and that's when Tyler broke from his party.
In President John F. Kennedy's 'Profiles in Courage," of John Tyler, Lyon Tyler said, "He would do what was right, but sometimes it was inconvenient."
Lyon Tyler said his grandfather expressed a "need for honesty" and in a letter to John Tyler Jr. (the president's son, and Lyon's uncle) he wrote, "Truths should always be uttered no matter what the consequences."
"[My grandfather] was a man too firm to be driven from his principles," Lyon Tyler said, which he implied was one of the reasons that led his grandfather to being abandoned by both political parties.
"Perhaps John Tyler wasn't the greatest of presidents," Lyon Tyler said, "He was a great man, a loving husband and father and was a servant of the people. You can't beat that. Who knew the unknown president would be an example to us all [through his integrity]."
After the hour-long discussion, Lyon Tyler answered questions and autographed history books, notepaper and other things the friendly crowd placed in his