U.S. Inauguration Day Firsts

Today is Inauguration Day, the day the newly elected — or re-elected — president takes the oath of office. Franklin Roosevelt was the first president to take the oath of office on January 20 (1937). Previously, Inauguration Day had been March 4, but Congress decided it wasn’t necessary to wait so long between the election and the inauguration.

Some inaugural firsts—Source: Garrison Keillor

Thomas Jefferson claimed three firsts in 1801: He was the first to be inaugurated in Washington, D.C. He was the first — and only — president to walk to his inauguration. And his speech was the first to be reprinted in the newspaper. And in 1805, he set another precedent by hosting the first inaugural parade.

John F. Kennedy was the first president to invite a poet to read at his inaugural. Robert Frost wrote a poem called “Dedication” especially for the occasion. But the sun was so bright that the 86-year-old Frost couldn’t read what he’d typed, so he recited “The Gift Outright,” which he knew by heart, instead.

Lyndon Johnson was the first (and so far the only) president to be sworn in by a woman. She was Dallas judge Sarah T. Hughes, and she administered the oath after the assassination of President Kennedy. Johnson took the oath on November 22, 1963, crowded into Air Force One with 26 other people.

Bill Clinton was the first president whose inauguration was broadcast on the Internet, at the beginning of his second term in 1997.

And of course it was last Inauguration Day, in 2009, that Barack Obama was sworn in as the first African-American president of the United States.