In 1923, just two years into his presidential term, Warren G. Harding died of a heart attack, leaving behind a wife, a mistress, and a secret daughter born by said mistress. Now Harding's grandson, James Blaesing, is petitioning an Ohio court to exhume Harding’s body in order to prove his relation to the 29th president beyond all doubt.
As The Associated Press reports, Blaesing’s connection to the former president isn’t currently in question. In 2011, Harding’s grandnephew Peter Harding and grandniece Abigail Harding initiated DNA testing with Blaesing to substantiate the long-held claims that Harding—who was thought to have been infertile—had fathered a daughter with his lover, Nan Britton. Ancestry.com’s DNA testing unit, AncestryDNA, confirmed that Peter and Abigail are indeed Blaesing’s second cousins in 2015, which supposedly settled the matter. For this reason, Harding’s other relatives are opposing Blaesing’s request to exhume their shared ancestor.
“Sadly, widespread, public recognition and acceptance by the descendants, historians, and biographers (and Mr. Blaesing himself) that Mr. Blaesing is President Harding’s grandson is not enough for him,” members of the family explained in a court document.
Although Blaesing’s lineage is already considered fact, he feels that his branch of the family is still relegated to the periphery of Harding’s legacy. To celebrate this year’s 100th anniversary of Harding’s election, the town of Marion, Ohio—where Harding lived before his presidency—is planning to unveil a new museum in his honor. It will reportedly make mention of Blaesing’s mother, Elizabeth Ann Blaesing, but he hasn’t been asked to contribute information or artifacts to the exhibit.
“I did the test and we brought it to the public in 2015. It’s now 2020 and no one has asked me one thing,” Blaesing told The Associated Press. “I’m not a part of anything. Nothing. My brothers, myself, no one. We’re invisible. They’re treating us just like they treated my grandmother.”
In 1927, Britton wrote a memoir about her relationship with Harding titled The President’s Daughter, which she published in large part because Harding had left her with no financial support when he died. Not only did the account scandalize the entire country, but Britton and her family suffered years of ill will and intimidation because of it. As Blaesing told The New York Times, people even burglarized their home looking for evidence to poke holes in the story.
Before Blaesing’s plans can go any further, Ohio History Connection—the organization responsible for Harding’s tomb and former home—would need experts to confirm that it’s even possible to exhume and rebury the body without ruining its white marble tomb. In other words, it could still be a while before Harding rises again.
[h/t The Associated Press]