List of presidents of the United States by previous experience

Although many paths may lead to the presidency of the United States, the most common job experience, occupation or profession of U.S. presidents has been that of a lawyer.[1] This sortable table enumerates all holders of that office, along with major elective or appointive offices or periods of military service prior to election to the presidency. The column immediately to the right of the presidents' names shows the position or office held just before the presidency. The next column to the right lists the next previous position held, and so on. Note that the total number of previous positions held by an individual may exceed four; the number of columns was limited to what would fit within the page width. The last two columns on the right list the home state (at the time of election to the presidency) and primary occupation of each future president, prior to beginning a political career.

By the numbers

There have been 45 presidencies (including the current one, which began in 2017), and 44 different individuals have served as president. Grover Cleveland was elected to two nonconsecutive terms, and as such is considered the 22nd and 24th president of the United States. Of the 44 different people who have or are currently serving as president:

List

President Previous 1 Previous 2 Previous 3 Previous 4 Occupation State[c]
1 George-Washington George Washington Out of office[d] Constitutional Convention[e] Out of office Military[f] Planter, land surveyor Virginia
2 Johnadams John Adams Vice President Foreign service[g] Continental Congress State legislator[h] Lawyer, farmer Massachusetts
3 02 Thomas Jefferson 3x4 Thomas Jefferson Vice President Secretary of State Foreign service[g] Congressman Planter, lawyer, land surveyor, architect Virginia
4 James Madison James Madison Secretary of State U.S. Representative Constitutional Convention State legislator[h] Planter Virginia
5 James Monroe White House portrait 1819 James Monroe Secretary of State Foreign service[g] State governor U.S. Senator Planter, lawyer Virginia
6 John Quincy Adams John Quincy Adams Secretary of State Foreign service[g] U.S. Senator State legislator[h] Lawyer Massachusetts
7 Andrew Jackson Andrew Jackson Out of office[d] U.S. Senator Military U.S. Senator Lawyer, military officer Tennessee
8 MVanBuren Martin Van Buren Vice President Secretary of State State governor[i] U.S. Senator Lawyer, political organizer New York
9 William Henry Harrison William Henry Harrison Foreign service[g] U.S. Senator U.S. Representative State governor Military Ohio
10 Johntyler John Tyler Vice President[j] U.S. Senator State governor U.S. Representative Lawyer Virginia
11 JKP James K. Polk Out of office[d] State governor Speaker of the House U.S. Representative Lawyer, planter Tennessee
12 Zachary Taylor restored and cropped Zachary Taylor Military ---- ---- ---- Military Kentucky
13 Millard Fillmore Millard Fillmore Vice President[k] State office Out of office[d] U.S. Representative Lawyer New York
14 Mathew Brady - Franklin Pierce - alternate crop Franklin Pierce Out of office[d] Military U.S. Senator U.S. Representative Lawyer New Hampshire
15 James Buchanan James Buchanan Foreign service[g] Out of office[d] Secretary of State U.S. Senator Lawyer Pennsylvania
16 Abrahamlincoln Abraham Lincoln Out of office[d] U.S. Representative State legislator[h] Military Lawyer, land surveyor Illinois[l]
17 Andrew Johnson Andrew Johnson Vice President[m] Military governor[n] U.S. Senator State governor Tailor Tennessee
18 Ulysses S. Grant 1870-1880 Ulysses S. Grant Military ---- ---- ---- Military Illinois[o]
19 President Rutherford Hayes 1870 - 1880 Rutherford B. Hayes State governor Out of office[d] State governor U.S. Representative Lawyer Ohio
20 James A. Garfield James A. Garfield U.S. Representative Military State legislator[h] ---- Ordained minister, lawyer, teacher Ohio
21 Chester A. Arthur Chester A. Arthur Vice President[p] Out of office[d] Federal office[q] Out of office Lawyer, teacher, tariff collector New York
22 Grover Cleveland Grover Cleveland State governor Local office[r] ---- ---- Lawyer New York
23 Benjamin Harrison Benjamin Harrison Out of office[d] U.S. Senator Out of office Military Lawyer Indiana
24 Grover Cleveland Grover Cleveland Out of office[d] President of the U.S. State governor Local office[r] Lawyer New York
25 William McKinley by Courtney Art Studio, 1896 William McKinley State governor U.S. Representative Military ---- Lawyer Ohio
26 President Theodore Roosevelt, 1904 Theodore Roosevelt Vice President[s] State governor Military Federal office[q][t] Historian, public servant, naturalist, military officer, policeman, rancher New York
27 William Howard Taft William Howard Taft Secretary of War Territorial governor[u] Judicial[v] Federal office[q][w] Lawyer, dean Ohio
28 President Woodrow Wilson portrait December 2 1912 Woodrow Wilson State governor ---- ---- ---- Academic New Jersey
29 Warren G Harding portrait as senator June 1920 Warren G. Harding U.S. Senator Out of office[d] State legislator[h] ---- Journalist, publisher Ohio
30 29 Calvin Coolidge 3x4 Calvin Coolidge Vice President[x] State Governor State office State legislator[h] Lawyer Massachusetts[y]
31 President Hoover portrait Herbert Hoover Secretary of Commerce Out of office[d][z] Federal office[q][aa] ---- Mining engineer Iowa
32 FDR in 1933 Franklin D. Roosevelt State governor Out of office[d] Federal office[q][t] State legislator[h] Lawyer New York
33 Harry S. Truman Harry S. Truman Vice President[ab] U.S. Senator County commissioner (County court) Military Businessperson, farmer Missouri
34 Dwight D. Eisenhower, official photo portrait, May 29, 1959 Dwight D. Eisenhower Military ---- ---- ---- Military officer, university president Kansas
35 John Fitzgerald Kennedy John F. Kennedy U.S. Senator U.S. Representative Military ---- Journalist, military officer Massachusetts
36 37 Lyndon Johnson 3x4 Lyndon B. Johnson Vice President[ac] U.S. Senator U.S. Representative Federal office[q][ad] Teacher, military officer Texas
37 Richard M. Nixon, ca. 1935 - 1982 - NARA - 530679 Richard Nixon Out of office[d] Vice President U.S. Senator U.S. Representative Lawyer, naval officer California
38 Gerald Ford presidential portrait (cropped) Gerald Ford Vice President[ae] U.S. Representative Military ---- Lawyer Michigan[af]
39 Carter cropped Jimmy Carter Out of office[d] State governor State legislator[h] Military Farmer, naval officer Georgia
40 Official Portrait of President Reagan 1981 Ronald Reagan Out of office[d] State governor ---- Military Actor, Screen Actors Guild President
California[ag]
41 George H. W. Bush, President of the United States, 1989 official portrait (cropped) George H. W. Bush Vice President Out of office[d] Federal office[q][ah] Foreign service[g] Businessperson, military pilot Texas[ai]
42 Bill Clinton Bill Clinton State governor State Attorney General ---- ---- Lawyer, teacher Arkansas
43 George-W-Bush.jpeg George W. Bush State governor Out of office[d][7] military[8] ---- Businessperson, military pilot Texas
44 Official portrait of Barack Obama Barack Obama U.S. Senator State legislator[h] academic[aj] ---- Lawyer, teacher, community organizer Illinois[ak]
45 Donald Trump official portrait Donald Trump ---- ---- ---- ---- Businessperson, real estate developer, reality television personality New York

See also

Notes

  1. ^ George Washington was commanding general of the Continental Army, the pre-independence equivalent of the US Army. The 9 US Army generals were Jackson, W. H. Harrison, Taylor, Pierce, Grant, Hayes, Garfield, B. Harrison and Eisenhower. Others with military experience were Monroe, McKinley, T. Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, L. B. Johnson, Nixon, Carter, Ford, Reagan, G. H. W. Bush, G. W. Bush.
  2. ^ Martin van Buren's brief foreign service is not counted since, although he was appointed Ambassador to the United Kingdom, the appointment was rejected by the U.S. Senate
  3. ^ "State" refers to the state generally considered "home", not necessarily the state where the president was born
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s This designation is used whenever the subject was out of public office for more than one year
  5. ^ Washington was first chosen by the Virginia State Legislature to be a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. Then he was elected by the delegates to be president of the convention.
  6. ^ Commander-in-chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War
  7. ^ a b c d e f g This is a general designation for any appointive position representing the United States to a foreign government
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j This is a general designation for any elected state legislator
  9. ^ Van Buren served just over two months of his term as Governor of New York before President Jackson appointed him Secretary of State
  10. ^ Tyler succeeded President Harrison, who died in office. He was not elected.
  11. ^ Fillmore succeeded President Taylor, who died in office. He was not elected.
  12. ^ Lincoln was born in Kentucky, but moved to Indiana, then Illinois at an early age
  13. ^ Johnson succeeded President Lincoln, who was assassinated. He was not elected.
  14. ^ President Lincoln appointed Johnson military governor of Tennessee during the Civil War
  15. ^ Grant was born and raised in Ohio. He rose to prominence as a Civil War general from Illinois and Illinois was his residence for his political career.[5][6]
  16. ^ Arthur succeeded President Garfield, who was assassinated. He was not elected.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g This is a general designation for appointive domestic Federal offices below cabinet level
  18. ^ a b This is a general designation for local elective offices
  19. ^ Roosevelt succeeded President McKinley, who was assassinated. He was elected once (1904), chose not to run again in 1908, and ran unsuccessfully in 1912.
  20. ^ a b Assistant Secretary of the Navy
  21. ^ President McKinley appointed Taft Governor-General of the Philippines
  22. ^ United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
  23. ^ Solicitor General of the United States
  24. ^ Coolidge succeeded President Harding, who died in office. He was elected to a second term.
  25. ^ Born and raised in Vermont and spent time in Vermont politics. Permanently moved to Massachusetts to attend college.
  26. ^ Following World War I, Hoover was involved with several humanitarian organizations.
  27. ^ Director of United States Food Administration
  28. ^ Truman succeeded President Roosevelt, who died in office. He was elected to a second term.
  29. ^ Johnson succeeded President Kennedy, who was assassinated. He was elected to a second term.
  30. ^ head of the National Youth Administration in Texas
  31. ^ Ford succeeded President Nixon, who resigned. He was not elected. Previously, Ford was appointed Vice President after Spiro Agnew resigned. Currently only President not to have been elected to the Executive Branch.
  32. ^ Ford was born in Nebraska, but moved to Michigan at an early age
  33. ^ Reagan was born, raised and educated in Illinois; he moved permanently to California after graduation from college.
  34. ^ Director of the Central Intelligence Agency
  35. ^ Bush was born in Massachusetts, and raised in Connecticut, but moved to Texas after graduation from college.
  36. ^ Obama taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1992 to 2004
  37. ^ Obama was born in Hawaii and mostly raised there. His career was based in Illinois

References

  1. ^ International Law, US Power: The United States' Quest for Legal Security, p 10, Shirley V. Scott - 2012
  2. ^ Journal of the Congress of the Confederate States of America, 1861–1865 Volume 1. U.S. Government Printing Office. 1904. pp. 303, 658.
  3. ^ The Preacher President http://punditwire.com/2012/03/03/the-preacher-president/
  4. ^ The Singular Humility of America's Only Ordained President https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2016/april-web-exclusives/singular-humility-of-americas-only-ordained-president.html
  5. ^ "The Congressional Globe". Library of Congress. 1868. p. 1063.
  6. ^ McFeely, William S. (1981). Grant: A Biography. Norton. pp. 232–233. ISBN 0-393-01372-3.
  7. ^ P.O. Box 400406. "George W. Bush: Life Before the Presidency—Miller Center". Millercenter.org. Retrieved 2016-12-27.
  8. ^ York, Byron. "Byron York on George W. Bush & National Guard on National Review Online". Web.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2008-08-30. Retrieved 2016-12-27.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
Bill Clinton

William Jefferson Clinton (born William Jefferson Blythe III; August 19, 1946) is an American politician who served as the 42nd president of the United States from 1993 to 2001. Prior to the presidency, he was the governor of Arkansas from 1979 to 1981, and again from 1983 to 1992, and the attorney general of Arkansas from 1977 to 1979. A member of the Democratic Party, Clinton was ideologically a New Democrat, and many of his policies reflected a centrist "Third Way" political philosophy.

Clinton was born and raised in Arkansas and attended Georgetown University, University College, Oxford, and Yale Law School. He met Hillary Rodham at Yale and married her in 1975. After graduating, Clinton returned to Arkansas and won election as the Attorney General of Arkansas, serving from 1977 to 1979. As Governor of Arkansas, he overhauled the state's education system and served as chairman of the National Governors Association. Clinton was elected president in 1992, defeating incumbent Republican opponent George H. W. Bush. At age 46, he became the third-youngest president and the first from the Baby Boomer generation.

Clinton presided over the longest period of peacetime economic expansion in American history. He signed into law the North American Free Trade Agreement but failed to pass his plan for national health care reform. In the 1994 elections, the Republican Party won unified control of the Congress for the first time in 40 years. In 1996, Clinton became the first Democrat since Franklin D. Roosevelt to be elected to a second full term. He passed welfare reform and the State Children's Health Insurance Program, as well as financial deregulation measures, including the Gramm–Leach–Bliley Act and the Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000. In 1998, Clinton was impeached by the House of Representatives for perjury and obstruction of justice following allegations that he committed perjury and obstructed justice to conceal an affair that he had with Monica Lewinsky, a 22-year old White House Intern. Clinton was acquitted by the Senate in 1999 and completed his term in office. He is only the second U.S. president—following Andrew Johnson 131 years earlier—to ever be impeached. During the last three years of Clinton's presidency, the Congressional Budget Office reported a budget surplus, the first such surplus since 1969. In foreign policy, Clinton ordered U.S. military intervention in the Bosnian and Kosovo wars, signed the Iraq Liberation Act in opposition to Saddam Hussein, participated in the 2000 Camp David Summit to advance the Israeli–Palestinian peace process, and assisted the Northern Ireland peace process.

Clinton left office with the highest end-of-office approval rating of any U.S. president since World War II, and has continually scored high in the historical rankings of U.S. presidents, consistently placing in the top third. Since leaving office, he has been involved in public speaking and humanitarian work. He created the William J. Clinton Foundation to address international causes such as the prevention of AIDS and global warming. He has remained active in politics by campaigning for Democratic candidates, including the presidential campaigns of his wife and Barack Obama. In 2004, Clinton published his autobiography, My Life. In 2009, he was named the United Nations Special Envoy to Haiti and after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, he teamed with George W. Bush to form the Clinton Bush Haiti Fund. In addition, he secured the release of two American journalists imprisoned by North Korea, visiting the capital Pyongyang and negotiating their release with then-North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.

Chester A. Arthur

Chester Alan Arthur (October 5, 1829 – November 18, 1886) was an American attorney and politician who served as the 21st president of the United States from 1881 to 1885. He previously was the 20th vice president of the United States, and he succeeded to the presidency upon the death of President James A. Garfield in September 1881, two months after Garfield was shot by an assassin.

Arthur was born in Fairfield, Vermont, grew up in upstate New York, and practiced law in New York City. He served as quartermaster general of the New York Militia during the American Civil War. Following the war, he devoted more time to Republican politics and quickly rose in New York Senator Roscoe Conkling's political machine. Appointed by President Ulysses S. Grant to the lucrative and politically powerful post of Collector of the Port of New York in 1871, Arthur was an important supporter of Conkling and the Stalwart faction of the Republican Party. In 1878, the new president, Rutherford B. Hayes, fired Arthur as part of a plan to reform the federal patronage system in New York. When Garfield won the Republican nomination for president in 1880, Arthur, an eastern Stalwart, was nominated for vice president to balance the ticket. Four months into his term, Garfield was shot by an assassin; he died 11 weeks later, and Arthur assumed the presidency.

At the outset, Arthur struggled to overcome a negative reputation as a Stalwart and product of Conkling's machine. To the surprise of reformers, he took up the cause of civil service reform. Arthur advocated and enforced the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act. He presided over the rebirth of the United States Navy, but was criticized for failing to alleviate the federal budget surplus, which had been accumulating since the end of the Civil War. Arthur signed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which resulted in denying citizenship to Chinese Americans until 1898 and barring Chinese immigration until 1943. Building on the 1875 Page Act, which barred Chinese women from entering the country, it was the first total ban on a nation or ethnic group from immigrating to the country.

Suffering from poor health, Arthur made only a limited effort to secure the Republican Party's nomination in 1884; he retired at the close of his term. Journalist Alexander McClure later wrote, "No man ever entered the Presidency so profoundly and widely distrusted as Chester Alan Arthur, and no one ever retired ... more generally respected, alike by political friend and foe." Although his failing health and political temperament combined to make his administration less active than a modern presidency, he earned praise among contemporaries for his solid performance in office. The New York World summed up Arthur's presidency at his death in 1886: "No duty was neglected in his administration, and no adventurous project alarmed the nation." Mark Twain wrote of him, "[I]t would be hard indeed to better President Arthur's administration." Over the 20th and 21st centuries, however, Arthur's reputation mostly faded among the public.

George H. W. Bush

George Herbert Walker Bush (June 12, 1924 – November 30, 2018) was an American politician and businessman who served as the 41st president of the United States from 1989 to 1993 and the 43rd vice president from 1981 to 1989. A member of the Republican Party, Bush also served in the U.S. House of Representatives, as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and as Director of Central Intelligence. Until his son George W. Bush became the 43rd president in 2001, he was usually known as George Bush.

Bush postponed his university studies after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday, and became one of its youngest aviators. He served until September 1945, and then attended Yale University, graduating in 1948. He moved his family to West Texas where he entered the oil business and became a millionaire by the age of 40 (in 1964). Bush won election to the House of Representatives from Texas's 7th congressional district in 1966, and was re-elected in 1968. He also ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate twice, in 1964 and again in 1970. In 1971, President Richard Nixon appointed Bush as Ambassador to the United Nations, and he became chairman of the Republican National Committee in 1973. The following year, President Gerald Ford appointed him Chief of the Liaison Office in China and later made him the Director of Central Intelligence. Bush ran for president in 1980, but was defeated in the Republican primary by Ronald Reagan. He was then elected vice president in 1980 and 1984 as Reagan's running mate. During his eight-year tenure as vice president, Bush headed task forces on deregulation and the War on Drugs.

In 1988, Bush defeated Democratic opponent Michael Dukakis, becoming the first incumbent vice president to be elected president in 152 years. Foreign policy drove the Bush presidency; military operations were conducted in Panama and the Persian Gulf, the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, and the Soviet Union dissolved two years later. Bush also signed the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which created a trade bloc consisting of the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Domestically, Bush reneged on a 1988 campaign promise by signing a bill that increased taxes. He lost the 1992 presidential election to Democrat Bill Clinton following an economic recession and the decreased importance of foreign policy in a post–Cold War political climate.

After leaving office in 1993, Bush was active in humanitarian activities; he often worked alongside Clinton, his former opponent. With George W. Bush's victory in the 2000 presidential election, Bush and his son became the second father–son pair to serve as the nation's president (following John Adams and John Quincy Adams). At the time of his death, he was the longest-lived president in U.S. history, a record surpassed by Jimmy Carter on March 22, 2019.

George W. Bush

George Walker Bush (born July 6, 1946) is an American politician and businessman who served as the 43rd president of the United States from 2001 to 2009. He had previously served as the 46th governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000.

Bush is the eldest son of Barbara and George H. W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States, and is the second president to so follow in his father’s footsteps, the first being John Quincy Adams. After graduating from Yale University in 1968 and Harvard Business School in 1975, he worked in the oil industry. Bush married Laura Welch in 1977 and unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. House of Representatives shortly thereafter. He later co-owned the Texas Rangers baseball team before defeating Ann Richards in the 1994 Texas gubernatorial election. Bush was elected President of the United States in 2000 when he defeated Democratic incumbent Vice President Al Gore after a narrow and contested win that involved a stopped recount in Florida. He became the fourth person to be elected president while receiving fewer popular votes than his opponent.His Bush Doctrine, originated in response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, launched a "War on Terror" that initially included the war in Afghanistan in 2001 and the Iraq War in 2003. He signed into law broad tax cuts, the Patriot Act, the No Child Left Behind Act, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, Medicare prescription drug benefits for seniors, and funding for the AIDS relief program known as PEPFAR. In the 2004 presidential race, Bush defeated Democratic Senator John Kerry in a close election. After his re-election, Bush received criticism from across the political spectrum for his handling of the Iraq War, Hurricane Katrina, and other challenges. Amid this criticism, the Democratic Party regained control of Congress in the 2006 elections. In December 2007, the United States entered its longest post-World War II recession, often referred to as the "Great Recession", prompting the Bush administration to obtain congressional passage of multiple economic programs intended to preserve the country's financial system.

Bush was among the most popular, as well as unpopular, U.S. presidents in history; he received the highest recorded approval ratings in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, but one of the lowest such ratings during the 2008 financial crisis. Bush finished his term in office in 2009 and returned to Texas. In 2010, he published his memoir, Decision Points. His presidential library opened in 2013. His presidency has been ranked among the worst in historians' polls, although his favorability ratings have improved since leaving office.

Gerald Ford

Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr. (born Leslie Lynch King Jr.; July 14, 1913 – December 26, 2006) was an American politician who served as the 38th president of the United States from August 1974 to January 1977. Before his accession to the presidency, Ford served as the 40th vice president of the United States from December 1973 to August 1974. Ford is the only person to have served as both vice president and president without being elected to either office by the Electoral College.

Born in Omaha, Nebraska, and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Ford attended the University of Michigan and Yale Law School. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve, serving from 1942 to 1946; he left as a lieutenant commander. Ford began his political career in 1949 as the U.S. representative from Michigan's 5th congressional district. He served in this capacity for 25 years, the final nine of them as the House Minority Leader. In December 1973, two months after the resignation of Spiro Agnew, Ford became the first person appointed to the vice presidency under the terms of the 25th Amendment by President Richard Nixon. After the subsequent resignation of President Nixon in August 1974, Ford immediately assumed the presidency. His 895 day-long presidency is the shortest in U.S. history for any president who did not die in office.

As president, Ford signed the Helsinki Accords, which marked a move toward détente in the Cold War. With the collapse of South Vietnam nine months into his presidency, U.S. involvement in Vietnam essentially ended. Domestically, Ford presided over the worst economy in the four decades since the Great Depression, with growing inflation and a recession during his tenure. In one of his most controversial acts, he granted a presidential pardon to President Richard Nixon for his role in the Watergate scandal. During Ford's presidency, foreign policy was characterized in procedural terms by the increased role Congress began to play, and by the corresponding curb on the powers of the President. In the Republican presidential primary campaign of 1976, Ford defeated former California Governor Ronald Reagan for the Republican nomination. He narrowly lost the presidential election to the Democratic challenger, former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter.

Following his years as president, Ford remained active in the Republican Party. His moderate views on various social issues increasingly put him at odds with conservative members of the party in the 1990s and early 2000s. After experiencing a series of health problems, he died at home on December 26, 2006.

John F. Kennedy

John Fitzgerald Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963), often referred to by initials JFK and Jack, was an American politician who served as the 35th president of the United States from January 1961 until his assassination in November 1963. Kennedy served at the height of the Cold War, and the majority of his work as president dealt with managing relations with the Soviet Union, especially during the Cuban Missile Crisis. A member of the Democratic Party, he represented Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate prior to becoming president.

Kennedy was born in Brookline, Massachusetts and graduated from Harvard University in 1940, before joining the U.S. Naval Reserve the following year. During World War II, he commanded a series of PT boats in the Pacific theater and earned the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for his service. In 1943, his PT boat collided with a Japanese destroyer and exploded. Kennedy's survival and rescue of his fellow sailors made him a war hero, but left him with serious injuries. After the war, Kennedy represented the 11th congressional district of Massachusetts in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1947 to 1953. He was subsequently elected to the U.S. Senate and served as the junior Senator from Massachusetts from 1953 to 1960. While in the Senate, Kennedy published his book Profiles in Courage, which won a Pulitzer Prize for Biography. In the 1960 presidential election, he narrowly defeated Republican opponent Richard Nixon, who was the incumbent vice president.

Kennedy's administration included high tensions with communist states in the Cold War. He increased the number of American military advisers in South Vietnam. In April 1961, he authorized a vain attempt to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro in the Bay of Pigs Invasion. Kennedy authorized the Cuban Project in November 1961. He rejected Operation Northwoods (plans for false flag attacks to gain approval for a war against Cuba) in March 1962, however his administration continued to plan for an invasion of Cuba in the summer of 1962. In October 1962, U.S. spy planes discovered Soviet missile bases had been deployed in Cuba; the resulting period of tensions, termed the Cuban Missile Crisis, nearly resulted in the breakout of a global thermonuclear conflict. Domestically, Kennedy presided over the establishment of the Peace Corps and supported the civil rights movement, but was only somewhat successful in passing his New Frontier domestic policies.

On November 22, 1963, he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson assumed the presidency upon Kennedy's death. Marxist Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested for the state crime, but he was shot to death by Jack Ruby two days later. The FBI and the Warren Commission both concluded Oswald had acted alone in the assassination, but various groups contested the Warren Report and believed that Kennedy was the victim of a conspiracy. After Kennedy's death, Congress enacted many of his proposals, including the Civil Rights Act and the Revenue Act of 1964. Kennedy ranks highly in polls of U.S. presidents with historians and the general public. His personal life has also been the focus of considerable interest, following revelations of his chronic health ailments and extramarital affairs.

John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams ( (listen); July 11, 1767 – February 23, 1848) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, and diarist who served as the sixth president of the United States from 1825 to 1829. He previously served as the eighth United States Secretary of State from 1817 to 1825. During his long diplomatic and political career, Adams also served as an ambassador, and represented Massachusetts as a United States Senator and as a member of the United States House of Representatives. He was the eldest son of John Adams, who served as the second US president from 1797 to 1801, and First Lady Abigail Adams. Initially a Federalist like his father, he won election to the presidency as a member of the Democratic-Republican Party, and in the mid-1830s became affiliated with the Whig Party.

Born in Braintree, Massachusetts, Adams spent much of his youth in Europe, where his father served as a diplomat. After returning to the United States, Adams established a successful legal practice in Boston. In 1794, President George Washington appointed Adams as the U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands, and Adams would serve in high-ranking diplomatic posts until 1801, when Thomas Jefferson took office as president. Federalist leaders in Massachusetts arranged for Adams's election to the United States Senate in 1802, but Adams broke with the Federalist Party over foreign policy and was denied re-election. In 1809, Adams was appointed as the U.S. ambassador to Russia by President James Madison, a member of the Democratic-Republican Party. Adams held diplomatic posts for the duration of Madison's presidency, and he served as part of the American delegation that negotiated an end to the War of 1812. In 1817, newly-elected President James Monroe selected Adams as his Secretary of State. In that role, Adams negotiated the Adams–Onís Treaty, which provided for the American acquisition of Florida. He also helped formulate the Monroe Doctrine, which became a key tenet of U.S. foreign policy.

The 1824 presidential election was contested by Adams, Andrew Jackson, William H. Crawford, and Henry Clay, all of whom were members of the Democratic-Republican Party. As no candidate won a majority of the electoral vote, the House of Representatives held a contingent election to determine the president, and Adams won that contingent election with the support of Clay. As president, Adams called for an ambitious agenda that included federally-funded infrastructure projects, the establishment of a national university, and engagement with the countries of Latin America, but many of his initiatives were defeated in Congress. During Adams's presidency, the Democratic-Republican Party polarized into two major camps: one group, known as the National Republican Party, supported President Adams, while the other group, known as the Democratic Party, was led by Andrew Jackson. The Democrats proved to be more effective political organizers than Adams and his National Republican supporters, and Jackson decisively defeated Adams in the 1828 presidential election.

Rather than retiring from public service, Adams won election to the House of Representatives, where he would serve from 1831 to his death in 1848. He joined the Anti-Masonic Party in the early 1830s before becoming a member of the Whig Party, which united those opposed to President Jackson. During his time in Congress, Adams became increasingly critical of slavery and of the Southern leaders whom he believed controlled the Democratic Party. He was particularly opposed to the annexation of Texas and the Mexican–American War, which he saw as a war to extend slavery. He also led the repeal of the "gag rule," which had prevented the House of Representatives from debating petitions to abolish slavery. Historians generally concur that Adams was one of the greatest diplomats and secretaries of state in American history, but they tend to rank him as an above-average president.

Lyndon B. Johnson

Lyndon Baines Johnson (; August 27, 1908 – January 22, 1973), often referred to as LBJ, was an American politician who served as the 36th president of the United States from 1963 to 1969. Formerly the 37th vice president from 1961 to 1963, he assumed the presidency following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. A Democrat from Texas, Johnson also served as a United States Representative and as the Majority Leader in the United States Senate. Johnson is one of only four people who have served in all four federal elected positions.Born in a farmhouse in Stonewall, Texas, Johnson was a high school teacher and worked as a congressional aide before winning election to the House of Representatives in 1937. He won election to the Senate in 1948 and was appointed to the position of Senate Majority Whip in 1951. He became the Senate Minority Leader in 1953 and the Senate Majority Leader in 1955. He became known for his domineering personality and the "Johnson treatment", his aggressive coercion of powerful politicians to advance legislation.

Johnson ran for the Democratic nomination in the 1960 presidential election. Although unsuccessful, he accepted the invitation of then-Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts to be his running mate. They went on to win a close election over the Republican ticket of Richard Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. On November 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated and Johnson succeeded him as president. The following year, Johnson won in a landslide, defeating Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona. With 61.1 percent of the popular vote, Johnson won the largest share of the popular vote of any candidate since the largely uncontested 1820 election.

In domestic policy, Johnson designed the "Great Society" legislation to expand civil rights, public broadcasting, Medicare, Medicaid, aid to education, the arts, urban and rural development, public services and his "War on Poverty". Assisted in part by a growing economy, the War on Poverty helped millions of Americans rise above the poverty line during his administration. Civil rights bills that he signed into law banned racial discrimination in public facilities, interstate commerce, the workplace and housing; the Voting Rights Act prohibited certain requirements in southern states used to disenfranchise African Americans. With the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the country's immigration system was reformed, encouraging greater emigration from regions other than Europe. Johnson's presidency marked the peak of modern liberalism after the New Deal era.

In foreign policy, Johnson escalated American involvement in the Vietnam War. In 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which granted Johnson the power to use military force in Southeast Asia without having to ask for an official declaration of war. The number of American military personnel in Vietnam increased dramatically, from 16,000 advisors in non-combat roles in 1963 to 525,000 in 1967, many in combat roles. American casualties soared and the peace process stagnated. Growing unease with the war stimulated a large, angry anti-war movement based chiefly among draft-age students on university campuses.

Johnson faced further troubles when summer riots began in major cities in 1965 and crime rates soared, as his opponents raised demands for "law and order" policies. While Johnson began his presidency with widespread approval, support for him declined as the public became frustrated with both the war and the growing violence at home. In 1968, the Democratic Party factionalized as anti-war elements denounced Johnson; he ended his bid for renomination after a disappointing finish in the New Hampshire primary. Nixon was elected to succeed him, as the New Deal coalition that had dominated presidential politics for 36 years collapsed. After he left office in January 1969, Johnson returned to his Texas ranch, where he died of a heart attack at age 64, on January 22, 1973.

Johnson is ranked favorably by many historians because of his domestic policies and the passage of many major laws that affected civil rights, gun control, wilderness preservation, and Social Security, although he also drew substantial criticism for his escalation of the Vietnam War.

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Wilson Reagan (; February 6, 1911 – June 5, 2004) was an American politician who served as the 40th president of the United States from 1981 to 1989. Prior to his presidency, he was a Hollywood actor and union leader before serving as the 33rd governor of California from 1967 to 1975.

Reagan was raised in a poor family in small towns of northern Illinois. He graduated from Eureka College in 1932 and worked as a sports commentator on several regional radio stations. After moving to California in 1937, he found work as an actor and starred in a few major productions. Reagan was twice elected President of the Screen Actors Guild—the labor union for actors—where he worked to root out Communist influence. In the 1950s, he moved into television and was a motivational speaker at General Electric factories. Reagan had been a Democrat until 1962, when he became a conservative and switched to the Republican Party. In 1964, Reagan's speech, "A Time for Choosing", supported Barry Goldwater's foundering presidential campaign and earned him national attention as a new conservative spokesman. Building a network of supporters, he was elected governor of California in 1966. As governor, Reagan raised taxes, turned a state budget deficit to a surplus, challenged the protesters at the University of California, ordered in National Guard troops during a period of protest movements in 1969, and was re-elected in 1970. He twice ran unsuccessfully for the Republican presidential nomination, in 1968 and 1976. Four years later in 1980, he won the nomination and then defeated incumbent president Jimmy Carter. At 69 years, 349 days of age at the time of his first inauguration, Reagan was the oldest person to have been elected to a first-term, until Donald Trump (aged 70 years, 220 days) in 2017. Reagan is still, however, the oldest president elected, at 73 years, 349 days of age at his second inauguration. Reagan faced former vice president Walter Mondale when he ran for re-election in 1984, and defeated him, winning the most electoral votes of any U.S. president, 525, or 97.6% of the 538 votes in the Electoral College. This was the second-most lopsided presidential election in modern U.S. history after Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1936 victory over Alfred M. Landon, in which he won 98.5% or 523 of the (then-total) 531 electoral votes.Soon after taking office, Reagan began implementing sweeping new political and economic initiatives. His supply-side economic policies, dubbed "Reaganomics", advocated tax rate reduction to spur economic growth, economic deregulation, and reduction in government spending. In his first term he survived an assassination attempt, spurred the War on Drugs, and fought public sector labor. Over his two terms, the economy saw a reduction of inflation from 12.5% to 4.4%, and an average annual growth of real GDP of 3.4%. Reagan enacted cuts in domestic discretionary spending, cut taxes, and increased military spending which contributed to increased federal outlays overall, even after adjustment for inflation. Foreign affairs dominated his second term, including ending the Cold War, the bombing of Libya, the Iran–Iraq War, and the Iran–Contra affair. In June 1987, four years after he publicly described the Soviet Union as an "evil empire", Reagan challenged Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall!", during a speech at the Brandenburg Gate. He transitioned Cold War policy from détente to rollback by escalating an arms race with the USSR while engaging in talks with Gorbachev. The talks culminated in the INF Treaty, which shrank both countries' nuclear arsenals. Reagan began his presidency during the decline of the Soviet Union, and the Berlin Wall fell just ten months after the end of his term. Germany reunified the following year, and on December 26, 1991 (nearly three years after he left office), the Soviet Union collapsed.

When Reagan left office in 1989, he held an approval rating of 68%, matching those of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and later Bill Clinton, as the highest ratings for departing presidents in the modern era. He was the first president since Dwight D. Eisenhower to serve two full terms, after a succession of five prior presidents did not. Although he had planned an active post-presidency, Reagan disclosed in November 1994 that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease earlier that year. Afterward, his informal public appearances became more infrequent as the disease progressed. He died at home on June 5, 2004. His tenure constituted a realignment toward conservative policies in the United States, and he is an icon among conservatives. Evaluations of his presidency among historians and the general public place him among the upper tier of American presidents.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson (April 13, 1743 – July 4, 1826) was an American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, and Founding Father who served as the third president of the United States from 1801 to 1809. Previously, he had served as the second vice president of the United States from 1797 to 1801. The principal author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson was a proponent of democracy, republicanism, and individual rights, motivating American colonists to break from the Kingdom of Great Britain and form a new nation; he produced formative documents and decisions at both the state and national level.

During the American Revolution, he represented Virginia in the Continental Congress that adopted the Declaration, drafted the law for religious freedom as a Virginia legislator, and served as the second Governor of Virginia from 1779 to 1781, during the American Revolutionary War. He became the United States Minister to France in May 1785, and subsequently the nation's first secretary of state under President George Washington from 1790 to 1793. Jefferson and James Madison organized the Democratic-Republican Party to oppose the Federalist Party during the formation of the First Party System. With Madison, he anonymously wrote the controversial Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions in 1798 and 1799, which sought to strengthen states' rights by nullifying the federal Alien and Sedition Acts.

As president, Jefferson pursued the nation's shipping and trade interests against Barbary pirates and aggressive British trade policies. He also organized the Louisiana Purchase, almost doubling the country's territory. As a result of peace negotiations with France, his administration reduced military forces. He was reelected in 1804. Jefferson's second term was beset with difficulties at home, including the trial of former vice president Aaron Burr. American foreign trade was diminished when Jefferson implemented the Embargo Act of 1807, responding to British threats to U.S. shipping. In 1803, Jefferson began a controversial process of Indian tribe removal to the newly organized Louisiana Territory, and he signed the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves in 1807. After retiring from public office, Jefferson founded the University of Virginia.

Jefferson, while primarily a planter, lawyer and politician, mastered many disciplines, which ranged from surveying and mathematics to horticulture and mechanics. He was an architect in the classical tradition. Jefferson's keen interest in religion and philosophy led to his presidency of the American Philosophical Society; he shunned organized religion but was influenced by both Christianity and deism. A philologist, Jefferson knew several languages. He was a prolific letter writer and corresponded with many prominent people. His only full-length book is Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), considered perhaps the most important American book published before 1800.Although regarded as a leading spokesman for democracy and republicanism in the era of the Enlightenment, some modern scholarship has been critical of Jefferson's private life, finding a contradiction between his ownership of the large numbers of slaves that worked his plantations and his famous declaration that "all men are created equal". In the 21st century, the Monticello Foundation has asserted that the weight of evidence confirms that the widowed Jefferson fathered six children with Sally Hemings, a mixed-race woman who was his slave and a half sister to his late wife. Despite this, presidential scholars and historians generally praise Jefferson's public achievements, including his advocacy of religious freedom and tolerance in Virginia. Jefferson continues to rank highly among U.S. presidents.

William Henry Harrison

William Henry Harrison (February 9, 1773 – April 4, 1841) was an American military officer and politician who served as the ninth president of the United States in 1841. He died of typhoid, pneumonia or paratyphoid fever 31 days into his term (the shortest tenure), becoming the first president to die in office. His death sparked a brief constitutional crisis regarding succession to the presidency, because the Constitution was unclear as to whether Vice President John Tyler should assume the office of president or merely execute the duties of the vacant office. Tyler claimed a constitutional mandate to become the new president and took the presidential oath of office, setting an important precedent for an orderly transfer of the presidency and its full powers when the previous president fails to complete the elected term.Harrison was a son of Founding Father Benjamin Harrison V and the paternal grandfather of Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd president of the United States. He was the last president born as a British subject in the Thirteen Colonies before the start of the Revolutionary War in 1775. During his early military career, he participated in the 1794 Battle of Fallen Timbers, an American military victory that effectively ended the Northwest Indian War. Later, he led a military force against Tecumseh's Confederacy at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, where he earned the nickname "Old Tippecanoe". He was promoted to major general in the Army in the War of 1812, and in 1813 led American infantry and cavalry at the Battle of the Thames in Upper Canada.Harrison began his political career in 1798, when he was appointed Secretary of the Northwest Territory, and in 1799 he was elected as the territory's delegate in the House of Representatives. Two years later, President John Adams named him governor of the newly established Indiana Territory, a post he held until 1812. After the War of 1812, he moved to Ohio where he was elected to represent the state's 1st district in the House in 1816. In 1824, the state legislature elected him to the United States Senate; his term was truncated by his appointment as Minister Plenipotentiary to Gran Colombia in May 1828. Afterward, he returned to private life in Ohio until he was nominated as the Whig Party candidate for president in the 1836 election; he was defeated by Democratic vice president Martin Van Buren. Four years later, the party nominated him again with John Tyler as his running mate, and the Whig campaign slogan was "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too". They defeated Van Buren in the 1840 election, making Harrison the first Whig to win the presidency.

At 68 years, 23 days of age at the time of his inauguration, Harrison was the oldest person to have assumed the U.S. presidency, a distinction he held until 1981, when Ronald Reagan was inaugurated at age 69 years, 349 days. Due to his brief tenure, scholars and historians often forgo listing him in historical presidential rankings. However, historian William W. Freehling calls him "the most dominant figure in the evolution of the Northwest territories into the Upper Midwest today".

William McKinley

William McKinley Jr. (January 29, 1843 – September 14, 1901) was the 25th president of the United States, serving from March 4, 1897, until his assassination six months into his second term. During his presidency, McKinley led the nation to victory in the Spanish–American War, raised protective tariffs to promote American industry and kept the nation on the gold standard in a rejection of free silver (effectively, expansionary monetary policy).

McKinley was the last president to have served in the American Civil War and the only one to have started the war as an enlisted soldier, beginning as a private in the Union Army and ending as a brevet major. After the war, he settled in Canton, Ohio, where he practiced law and married Ida Saxton. In 1876, he was elected to Congress, where he became the Republican Party's expert on the protective tariff, which he promised would bring prosperity. His 1890 McKinley Tariff was highly controversial, which together with a Democratic redistricting aimed at gerrymandering him out of office led to his defeat in the Democratic landslide of 1890. He was elected governor of Ohio in 1891 and 1893, steering a moderate course between capital and labor interests. With the aid of his close adviser Mark Hanna, he secured the Republican nomination for president in 1896 amid a deep economic depression. He defeated his Democratic rival William Jennings Bryan after a front porch campaign in which he advocated "sound money" (the gold standard unless altered by international agreement) and promised that high tariffs would restore prosperity.

Rapid economic growth marked McKinley's presidency. He promoted the 1897 Dingley Tariff to protect manufacturers and factory workers from foreign competition and in 1900 secured the passage of the Gold Standard Act. McKinley hoped to persuade Spain to grant independence to rebellious Cuba without conflict, but when negotiation failed he led the nation into the Spanish-American War of 1898. The United States victory was quick and decisive. As part of the peace settlement, Spain turned over to the United States its main overseas colonies of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippines while Cuba was promised independence, but at that time remained under the control of the United States Army. The United States annexed the independent Republic of Hawaii in 1898 and it became a United States territory.

Historians regard McKinley's 1896 victory as a realigning election in which the political stalemate of the post-Civil War era gave way to the Republican-dominated Fourth Party System, which began with the Progressive Era. McKinley defeated Bryan again in the 1900 presidential election in a campaign focused on imperialism, protectionism and free silver. His legacy was suddenly cut short when he was shot on September 6, 1901 by Leon Czolgosz, a second-generation Polish-American with anarchist leanings. McKinley died eight days later and was succeeded by his Vice President Theodore Roosevelt. As an innovator of American interventionism and pro-business sentiment, McKinley's presidency is generally considered above average, though his highly positive public perception was soon overshadowed by Roosevelt.

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