President John Tyler’s Grandson Is Still Alive

When living person Harrison Ruffin Tyler’s grandfather was born, the U.S. had only 13 states.
Official White House portrait of President John Tyler by George P. A. Healy.
Official White House portrait of President John Tyler by George P. A. Healy. / Fine Art/GettyImages

John Tyler, the 10th U.S. president, was born in 1790. He took office in 1841, after William Henry Harrison died. And he still has one living grandchild: Harrison Ruffin Tyler.

Not great-great-great-grandchild. Harrison's dad was President Tyler’s son.

How Is this Possible?

The Tyler men had a habit of having kids very late in life. Lyon Gardiner Tyler, one of President Tyler’s 15 children, was born in 1853 when the former president was 63 years old.

Elected to Virginia’s state legislature in 1887, Lyon Gardiner Tyler arranged for the restoration of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, which had been neglected during the Civil War, and became its president in 1888. He also published books and magazines about Virginia history and promoted the significance of Jamestown in the story of the United States’s founding.

Lyon Gardiner Tyler married his second wife, Sue Ruffin, who was exactly half his age, in 1923. They had two sons, Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. in 1925 (when Tyler Sr. was approximately 72), and Harrison Ruffin Tyler in 1928 (when he was about 75). Tyler Sr. died in 1935 at age 81.

Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps and practiced law in Richmond, Virginia. He also earned a Ph.D. in history and taught military history at several universities in the state. On September 26, 2020, Tyler Jr. passed away at the age of 95—175 years after his grandfather left the White House in 1845.

That leaves Harrison Ruffin Tyler to keep this amazing quirk of longevity alive. He graduated from William and Mary and founded a successful industrial water treatment company. As of 2021, he resided in a nursing home in Tennessee near his son and daughter-in-law.

On the Case

In 2012, we placed a somewhat awkward call to the Charles City County History Center in Virginia to check in on the Tylers, at which point Lyon and Harrison were still with us.

Then we shared, on Twitter, the fact that two of Tyler's grandchildren were still living. New York magazine jumped at the chance to publish an interview with Harrison Tyler, Lyon Tyler spoke to the Daughters of the American Revolution, and both brothers were profiled by The Times of London in 2018. Snopes also confirmed the fact.

This story has been updated for 2024.

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