Exhume President Warren G. Harding? Household Feuds in Court docket

Exhume President Warren G. Harding? Family Feuds in Court

There isn’t any actual dispute that James Blaesing is the grandson of Warren G. Harding and his mistress. However the wounds of that revelation have resurfaced in court docket, as family members of the 29th president, many now of their 70s, argue over a proposal to exhume President Harding’s physique because the 100th anniversary of his election approaches.

On one aspect is Mr. Blaesing, who says the exhumation is important to show with “scientific certainty” that Harding was his grandfather, despite the fact that the DNA proof is already persuasive, and to substantiate his and his mom’s “membership in a historic American household.” He additionally desires to convey alongside a tv manufacturing crew to doc the opening of the tomb.

On the opposite aspect are a number of Harding family members who say the disinterment would create an pointless spectacle. One has questioned the motives of the tv manufacturing firm, believing it’s fixated on the unfounded concept that Harding, who died in workplace in 1923, was poisoned — maybe by his spouse, Florence Harding.

The matter is now earlier than a household court docket decide in Ohio. The arguments have raised a query with implications past this explicit feud: Are exhumations nonetheless essential to show if somebody is said to a lifeless particular person, now that genetic testing and genealogical evaluation methods are so superior?

For some time it appeared as if the Harding household may have the ability to work by way of the 29th president’s messy previous with out attorneys.

Dr. Peter Martin Harding, a son of one of many former president’s nephews, grew up listening to that Mr. Blaesing’s grandmother, Nan Britton — who wrote a 1928 tell-all, “The President’s Daughter,” claiming that she had a daughter with Harding — was a “confused younger lady.” Harding had been rendered infertile by a mumps an infection when he was younger, Dr. Harding’s father advised him, so he couldn’t presumably have fathered a toddler.

However when Dr. Harding learn Ms. Britton’s ebook, he was struck by how believable her story sounded. Further analysis satisfied him additional. Ms. Britton died in 1991 and her daughter, Elizabeth Ann Blaesing — Mr. Blaesing’s mom — died in 2005 with out anybody within the Harding household having ever formally acknowledging them.

“My household has brought about this complete wound,” Dr. Harding, 77, a former Navy psychiatrist who lives in Massive Sur, Calif., stated, including that he had thought to himself, “I’m going to heal this.”

He reached out to Mr. Blaesing, who had tried speaking with the Harding household solely to be ignored. By involving Ancestry.com’s DNA testing division and one other cooperative Harding cousin, they have been in a position to present that Ms. Britton’s declare was true. “That is the definitive reply,” an govt at Ancestry declared in 2015.

“That was my nice victory,” Dr. Harding stated.

Then issues took a flip, although simply how and why is dependent upon whom you ask. Mr. Blaesing, who’s 70 and works in development in Portland, Ore., didn’t reply to a number of requests for remark, however court docket filings paint an image of a person who rapidly noticed simply how fragile his place within the household nonetheless was.

Some Hardings acknowledged him. Others didn’t, notably “the department that has taken accountability for preserving President Harding’s legacy in his hometown of Marion, Ohio,” he wrote to the court docket.

Mr. Blaesing knew {that a} historic group in Ohio was gearing up for a celebration of Harding’s 1920 landslide election victory that would come with the development of a new presidential museum and library. (Its opening, scheduled for this month, has been delayed by the pandemic.) He laments in his letters to the court docket that he was excluded from the planning and that nobody reached out to him to study extra about his mom, the president’s solely recognized baby.

As a result of the tactic of genetic evaluation utilized by Ancestry.com was new, he feared that it left room for family members to poke holes within the outcome. In court docket paperwork, his attorneys argued that the one “indeniable” method to “stop others from questioning his lineage and usurping his proper to regulate how his household’s story is advised” required evaluating his DNA with samples taken straight from the deceased president.

Over the previous decade advances in genetic testing and genealogical evaluation have made it more and more doable to develop highly effective hypotheses about how two individuals are associated even when certainly one of them is lifeless. Genealogists and legislation enforcement will typically use the DNA of siblings, youngsters or different shut family members as stand-ins for the deceased.

However “if the purpose is authorized proof,” courts typically need a direct genetic comparability to the lifeless relative, stated CeCe Moore, a genetic genealogist who has investigated household puzzles for the tv exhibits “Discovering Your Roots” and “The Genetic Detective.”

Of their written pleadings to the court docket, Mr. Blaesing’s cousins have insisted that they’re satisfied he’s the president’s grandson and that they’d somewhat keep away from disrupting Harding’s grave and making a media circus. One cousin steered that Mr. Blaesing might embrace his position as a Harding by donating cash to the centennial or by laying a wreath on his memorial as a part of an annual ceremony in July.

Since 1927, Harding and his spouse, Florence, have lain in matching sarcophagi on the middle of a 53-foot excessive white-marble colonnade in Marion. Every of the granite slabs protecting their graves weighs 9,400 kilos, and would almost certainly should be eliminated with a crane, in keeping with the Ohio Historical past Connection, which maintains the gravesite and is concerned in planning the centennial celebration. The group declined to take a place on the disinterment in a letter to the court docket, and stated a museum exhibit acknowledging Elisabeth Blaesing because the president’s daughter was deliberate.

Dr. Harding, who initially supported Mr. Blaesing’s choice to file a lawsuit looking for to be acknowledged as Harding’s descendant, stated his perspective modified when he discovered extra about Magilla Leisure, the TV manufacturing firm that desires to doc the opening of the crypt. After talking with folks on the manufacturing firm, he stated, he was involved they’d fixate on the conspiracy that Harding was murdered.

Magilla Leisure, which has produced historic and reality-based tv collection, together with “American Ripper” and “Submissive Wives’ Information to Marriage,” directed inquiries to the attorneys they share with Mr. Blaesing.

One of many attorneys, Natalie A. Harris, wrote in an electronic mail that Mr. Blaesing’s story “would be the focus of any movie, not the style of President Harding’s dying.”

Nonetheless, she stated, if the court docket approves Mr. Blaesing’s utility to have Harding’s physique disinterred for DNA testing, the corporate might take into account toxicology testing to assemble “extra details about the president’s well being and sudden dying.”

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