NEW YORK Gov. Mario Cuomo has questioned recently whether people whose names end in vowels may face difficulty reaching the White House. While the electorate's never promised any candidate the Rose Garden, such presidents are not without precedent.
Let's look at the record:
Four of our presidents -- Monroe, Fillmore, Pierce, Coolidge -- had names that end in a vowel.
Indeed, we have had more presidents whose names ended in a vowel -- four -- than presidents whose names began with vowels -- three: Adams, Quincy Adams, Arthur.
In fact, if you count the second Adams as a "Q" rather than an "A," we have twice as many presidents whose names ended in vowels as presidents whose names began with vowels.
We have had more presidents whose name ends in a vowel -- four -- than presidents whose name ends in 17 of the 21 consonants: B, C, F, G, H, J, K, L, M, P, Q, S, V, W, X, Y, Z.
Of the remaining four consonants:
We have had as many presidents whose names ended in a vowel -- four -- as presidents whose names ended in the consonant T (Grant; T. Roosevelt; Taft; F. D. Roosevelt).
We have also had as many presidents whose names ended in a vowel as presidents whose name ended in the consonant D (Garfield, Cleveland, Cleveland, Ford). However, D only qualifies if you count Cleveland twice because he served non-consecutive terms -- a form of alphabetical double-dipping non-D's may find abhorrent.
The only two consonants that can boast that they conclude the names of more presidents than the mighty vowel are:
R, with a solid six -- Tyler, Taylor, Arthur, Hoover, Eisenhower, and Carter.
And the ever-popular N with a whopping 15 -- Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, Van Buren, W.H. Harrison, Buchanan, Lincoln, A. Johnson, B. Harrison, Wilson, Truman, L. Johnson, Nixon and Reagan.
All's well that N's well, it seems.
Parenthetically, we've had 20 first ladies whose names ended in a vowel, starting with Martha (Washington) in 1789 and continuing into the 1970's with Thelma (Nixon, though better known as Pat). And this is without counting Mrs. Cleveland once, much less twice -- a reasonable omission considering her first name was Frances.
*There's no denying that the vowel has been something less than a sure thing in the quadrennial sweepstakes. V's -- major party presidential candidates whose names ended in a vowel -- have on occasion come up short when pitted against C's -- opponents whose name ended with a consonant. Breckenridge (1860) lost to Lincoln, but he also defeated a pair of C's -- Bell and Douglas -- in a four-way electoral vote split. Blaine (1884) was bested by Cleveland, but his narrow defeat (by some 25,000 votes out of 10 million cast) is attributable more to alliteration ("rum, Romanism and rebellion") than alphabet. Willkie (1940)? He took it on the chin from F. D. Roosevelt. But so too did Hoover (1932), Landon (1936) and Dewey (1944) -- C's all. And Mondale (1984) lost to the incumbent Reagan, but so did a C -- Carter.
While the consonant can be formidable, we would do well to remember that it is by no means invincible. I mean, we're not exactly talking C to shining C. Quite frankly, the consonant has oft-times fared rather miserably in head-to-head competiton with the vowel. Consider this: Of the elected presidents whose named ended in a vowel, Monroe trounced a C (King, 1816); Pierce pasted a C (Scott, 1852); and Coolidge clobbered a C -- Davis, 1924).
Admittedly, of the presidents depicted on Mount Rushmore (Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, T. Roosevelt), none has a name that ends in a vowel.
But, hey, Mount Rushmore does.