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107th Honors Millard Fillmore with Presidential Wreath

  • Published
  • By SSgt Ryan Campbell
  • 107th Airlift Wing
On a frosty winter's morning, the 107th Airlift Wing, New York Air National Guard, honored the nation's 13th president with a wreath laying ceremony at his grave at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, on Jan. 7, 2016.

Col. Michael W. Bank Jr, vice commander of the 107th AW, laid the wreath on behalf of President Obama in front of dignitaries and admirers of President Millard Fillmore. The ceremony, which is in its 51st year, is held by the University at Buffalo to mark the western New York native's birthday.

"The Air Force commemorates the Millard Fillmore memorial, and they have for many years," said Bank. "It's typically an Air Force representative. The Office of the Assistant to the Secretary of Defense reaches out to us and they ask us if we would continue to present the wreath."

The wreath, which is adorned with red, white and blue flowers, is presented by the White House on behalf of the president, said Bank. Fixed to the top of the wreath is a bow in our nations colors with a card attached that simply reads "The President."

"Not only was he the 13th president of the United States," said Bank, "he served the state of New York in a legal capacity and as a congressman."
Fillmore was one of the founders of the University at Buffalo, of which he was the first chancellor, holding the position while he was vice president in 1849, and president from 1850 to 1853. He also helped to found the Buffalo Historical Society which today includes the Buffalo History Museum and Tifft Nature Preserve, in 1862.

When the Civil War broke out, Fillmore was the commander of the Union Continentals which was a militia of men from upstate New York. They were dedicated to the defense of Buffalo should the Confederate Army attack, which ultimately did not. Fillmore remained active with them after the war, and participated in guarding President Abraham Lincoln's funeral train when it came through Buffalo.

"We have a western New Yorker who served his nation, served his state, served his community till the day he died," said Bank. "That legacy still continues. It's our duty as Guardsmen who serve the nation, the state and the community in much of the same way to be able to commemorate this gentleman and what he's done for us."

That legacy began in 1828 when Fillmore was elected to the New York State Assembly. After serving one term, he was elected a representative in 1832. Serving in Congress until 1843, he was unsuccessful in running for governor, though he was elected as comptroller in 1848 and served until 1849.

When Zachary Taylor took office as president in 1849, Fillmore joined him as his vice president. A year later, Taylor died suddenly making Fillmore the president. Not able to secure the Whig Party nomination for the 1852 election, Fillmore left the White House as the last Whig president ever elected, and returned to Buffalo and lived out the rest of his life in service to the community until his death on March 8, 1874.