Once the Senate confirms his nomination on Tuesday, John Kerry will be the first chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to become the secretary of State in more than 100 years. But if he has any ambition at all, he'd better hope his experience is nothing like his predecessor's.
If there was ever the epitome of a political appointee in the latter days of the 19th century it was John Sherman, who took the job in 1897. The three-time presidential candidate and longtime Republican senator was appointed by President McKinley to free up a Senate seat for a friend of the president.
While McKinley got his political manager and close friend, Mark Hanna, a Senate seat representing Ohio, he got a political headache in one of the top spots of his Cabinet.
What would come most certainly surprised onlookers. After taking the Cabinet post, Ohio's then-Gov. Asa Bushnell addressed concerns of Sherman's age.
"He possesses wonderful vigor," he told The New York Times on Jan. 17, 1897, "and bears his weight of 73 years without any sign that it is a burden. The post of secretary of State would be a fitting close to his useful career, but I do not expect him to retire from public life at the end of four years. In these days, 77 is not a remarkably advanced age, and Senator Sherman, I hope, will have many more years of service."