Portland man, grandson of Warren G. Harding and lover of the president, wants Harding’s body exhumed


COLUMBUS, Ohio – The grandson of US President Warren G. Harding and his lover, Nan Britton, have taken court action in an attempt to have the Republican’s body exhumed from the presidential memorial where they have been laid to rest since 1927.

James Blaesing told an Ohio court he was seeking Harding’s exhumation as a way to “establish with scientific certainty” that he was a relative of the 29th president.

The dispute looms as benefactors prepare to mark the centenary of Harding’s election in 1920 with site improvements and a new presidential center in Marion, the Ohio city where he was born in 1865. Blaesing says he deserves “to have his story, his mother’s story and his grandmother’s story included in the sacred halls and museums of this city.”

A branch of the Harding family opposed the lawsuit filed in May – not because it disputes Blaesing’s ancestry, but because it does not.

They claim that they have already accepted as DNA evidence that Blaesing’s mother, Elizabeth Ann Blaesing, was the daughter of Harding and Britton and that she should be recognized in the museum. Harding had no other children.

“Unfortunately, the widespread public recognition and acceptance by descendants, historians and biographers (and Mr. Blaesing himself) that Mr. Blaesing is President Harding’s grandson is not enough for him,” said relatives in a court case. They called the trial a ploy to get attention.

In 2015, a match between James Blaesing’s DNA and that of two descendants of Harding prompted AncestryDNA, a DNA testing division of Ancestry.com, to declare his link with the official president.

At the time, Blaesing told The Associated Press he was thrilled. Five years later, he tells the AP that his mother’s legacy as the daughter of a US president is shaping up to be little more than a footnote in the new museum. He has not been approached to provide details of his life or even a photo for the next exhibition, he said.

“I took the test and we presented it to the public in 2015. It is now 2020 and no one has asked me a single thing,” he said in a telephone interview. “I am not a part of anything. Nothing. My brothers, me, no one. We are invisible. They treat us like they treated my grandmother.

Blaesing said he hopes a direct match with the president’s own DNA will change that.

Ironically, it was two known relatives of Harding – grandnephew Peter Harding and grandniece Abigail Harding – who first contacted the Blaesing family in 2011 to end speculation that Harding would have a child out. wedding.

Before that, “doubt and mystery enveloped Elizabeth Blaesing’s paternal line for nearly 100 years,” family members, besides Peter and Abigail Harding, told the court.

According to court documents, Peter Harding’s interest was aroused by reading “The President’s Daughter,” Britton’s 1927 book, “and concluding that the man described in its pages resembled the author of love letters written to Mrs. Carrie Phillips. The Library of Congress opened these letters between Harding and Phillips, another lover, to the public in 2014.

Ohio History Connection, which operates the Harding House and Memorial, is taking no position on the family dispute. Spokeswoman Emmy Beach said the nonprofit accepts the 2015 DNA results “as fact” and plans a section of the new museum “on Harding’s relationship with Nan Britton and their daughter, Elizabeth Ann Blaesing “.

However, the Ohio History Connection told the court it had to examine a host of issues before disrupting the sealed sarcophagus at the Harding Memorial.

The crypt also contains the remains of First Lady Florence Kling Harding in another sarcophagus, and the association says her loved ones deserve their say. Additionally, to protect the site, the association said it will need to employ experts to ensure the president’s body can be exhumed and reburied without damaging the tomb, a magnificent white marble temple surrounded by Doric columns.

The openings of the renovated historic sites at Marion and the Warren G. Harding Presidential Center have been indefinitely delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, Beach said. She said the exhumation request did not affect the schedule.

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