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The names of the US residents
Who then became the presidents
And got a view, from the White House loo,
Of Pennsylvania Avenue?"
Ladies and gentlemen,note the presidents of the United States! ("Hail to the Chief" starts playing.)
Specifically, the presidents of the United States of America (and more specifically, the presidents of the United States under the Constitution), whose duties and powers are explained in length on the American Political System page. They are, in order:
- George Washington (1789–97, independent/de facto Federalist). Led the Continental Army. Only president not to be a member of any political party. Only one of two presidents — the other being James Monroe — to run unopposed and consequently one of the only two to be elected unanimously. Often held up as a real-life case of First Installment Wins, with only Lincoln ranking higher than him on popularity polls. Generally regarded as having made a lot of very good suggestions for the country's future upon his departure that nobody bothered to follow. First president from Virginia. Only president to lead the U.S. Army in the field personally, during the Whiskey Rebellion, though it never escalated into actual combat. Set the two-term precedent that most of his successors would follow, though it wouldn't be until Franklin D. Roosevelt successfully and controversially defied that precedent—twice—that it was agreed that There Should Be a Law for it and it went from being a recommendation to legislation via the 22nd Amendment. Also set the precedent of eschewing fancy titles; this is why the President is introduced domestically as "The President of the United States" and addressed as "Mr. President" (though "Excellency" is often used internationally and "Honorable" is an official domestic title). Died soon after leaving office in 1799, making him the only president to die in the 18th century. Featured on the $1 bill and the quarter.
- John Adams (1797–1801, Federalist). An active member of the Continental Congress, an important foreign minister in the nation's early years, and the first vice president (and thus the first VP to be elected president). A rather different president than his predecessor in literal and figurative stature, but also set many precedents: First president from Massachusetts, first to receive the oath of office from a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (Oliver Ellsworth), first to live in the Executive Mansion (now known as The White House) first to be part of a political party; first without a military background, first who did not own slaves, and first to veto no bills while in office. Saw the controversial Alien and Sedition Acts passed, leading to accusations of despotism that lost him the 1800 election to Thomas Jefferson, which also made him the first incumbent president to lose re-election to a second term. Resentfully but gracefully returned home after his loss, and in doing so quietly instituted the tradition of peaceful transitions of power that would (mostly) remain standard for the remainder of America's history. Died on the Fourth of July (Independence Day) of 1826, the same day as...
- Thomas Jefferson (1801–09, Democratic-Republican). Wrote the Declaration of Independence before serving as governor of Virginia, first Secretary of State under Washington, and second vice president under Adams (and thus the second VP elected to the presidency, though he actually ran against Adams). Though normally an advocate for a smaller federal government, notably expanded its power while president, most notably by ratifying the Louisiana Purchase that doubled the size of the nation's territory claims. Also the first wartime president, having declared the First Barbary War. As a public and vocal Deist, arguably the only non-Christian president. Invented the swivel chair. While normally considered one of the better—or at least most important—presidents, his gravestone omits his presidency in favor of other accomplishments, such as writing the Declaration and his work in his home state, which also included founding the University of Virginia. Remains condemned by many for fathering many children with an enslaved woman, Sally Hemmings, without acknowledging his patronage and claiming all of them as his slaves. Featured on the $2 bill and the nickel.
- James Madison (1809–17, Democratic-Republican). Shortest presidentnote and the last who was a Founding Father. Drafted the Virginia Plan, which became the basis of the Constitution, wrote several of the Federalist Papers, and helped get Virginia to agree to the Constitution. Served as a representative and later Secretary of State under Jefferson. First wartime president on U.S. soil; the British burnt the White House down during his second term. Post-presidency, succeeded Jefferson once again as Chancellor of the University of Virginia and was one of the last living Founding Fathers before he passed away in 1836.
- James Monroe (1817–25, Democratic-Republican). Former senator and governor of Virginia, then Secretary of State and War under Madison. Last president to be elected unopposed, presided over an "Era of Good Feelings". Famous for his "Monroe Doctrine", a fairly vague declaration that declared independent nations in the Western Hemisphere out of European jurisdiction that has influenced centuries of U.S. foreign policy. The capital of Liberia, Monrovia, is named after him due to his contributions to the American Colonization Society, which sought to return freed slaves to Africa. Last president of whom no photography exists. Also died on Independence Day, in 1831.
- John Quincy Adams (1825–29, Democratic-Republican/National Republican). First president to be directly related to a previous office-holder (John Adams, his father); alongside George W. Bush, one of the only two presidents to be the son of a previous president. Served as a foreign minister, senator of Massachusetts, and Secretary of State under Monroe. In contrast to his unanimously-elected-and-appointed predecessor, first president to lose the popular vote (twice!) and the only president to be elected by the House of Representatives.note Had a long and rather productive stint in the House of Representatives after his presidency, the only president to be elected to that chamber post-presidency; he was a vocal opponent of slavery, protested the invasion of Mexico, and successfully campaigned for the creation of the Smithsonian Institute. Earliest known president to be photographed, albeit several years after he left the presidency. Suffered a cerebral hemorrhage on the House floor in 1848 and died shortly after.
- Andrew Jackson (1829–37, Democrat; creator of the Democratic Party and first Democratic president). Remembered largely for his violent temper, lack of sophistication, controversial policies, and reorienting of the presidency to a populist "agent of the people" role that still continues to this day. A popular general in the War of 1812 and senator from Tennessee; the first president elected from outside of the original colonies, signifying the nation's westward shift.note Broke the 28-year-long sequence of Democratic-Republican presidents who were the Secretary of State of their predecessor. First president targeted in an Assassination Attempt; only president to almost personally kill his attempted assassin after he failed (also killed at least one man in a duel, something he enjoyed bragging about). Infamously and illegally overruled the Supreme Court in his push to drive out the Native American population of the South. Threatened to use force to keep South Carolina from nullifying federal law. Fought to shut down the national bank and deregulate the monetary system, which contributed to the subsequent financial panic after he left office; ironically, he is now featured on the $20 bill, though is planned to be shoved off to the back in favor of Harriet Tubman in 2028. Died in 1845.
- Martin Van Buren (1837–41, Democrat). Former senator and (briefly) governor of New York, then Jackson's Secretary of State and vice president. First president to have been born an American citizen after America declared its independence;note first president from New York; only president to have English as a second language (he came from a Dutch-speaking family). Had a pretty poor run at it due largely to having to clean up many of Jackson's messes, most notably the financial Panic of 1837, costing him reelection. Later became a prominent abolitionist and launched two failed attempts at re-election, failing to win the Democratic nomination in 1844 and running as a third-party "Free Soil" candidate in 1848. Died in 1862.
- William Henry Harrison (March–April 1841, first Whig president). A Virginia native, former frontier general/governor, and first Ohio politician (in his case, senator) to be elected president. Died of pneumonia one month after taking office; first president to die in office and had the shortest presidency, which is the only reason people remember him (can't really be remembered for much as a president if the only noteworthy thing you did while in office was get sick and die). Last president to have been born before America declared independence. First president to be photographed while in office, though the photo has been lost to time (which only further contributes to his death being the only commonly remembered thing about him).
- John Tyler (1841–45, Whig/Independent). A former governor and Congressman from Virginia and last from that state to serve.note First president to have been born after the ratification of the Constitution. First vice president to inherit the presidency, setting a precedent that was contested and wouldn't be codified until the 25th Amendment over a century later, and had the longest administration of a non-elected president. Only joined the Whigs due to opposing Andrew Jackson and got kicked out of the party for constantly impeding them once in office; first president to have a veto overridden. First president to marry in office and fathered most children of any president (15); despite dying over 160 years ago, still has a living grandson. Sided with the Confederacy when The American Civil War began in 1861, served in the unelected Confederate Provisional Congress and won election to the Confederate House of Representatives,note but died the following year before being seated; he was buried with the Confederate flag, making him the only president not laid to rest under the flag of the United States.note
- James K. Polk (1845–49, Democrat). Former Tennessee governor/representative; only president to have been Speaker of the House. Pledged to serve just one term and in that time did everything he said he would: namely, vastly expand the country to the Pacific by annexing the Republic of Texas, settling border disputes with Britain in the Northwest, and going to war with Mexico to conquer and claim vast tracts of that country's territory, including California. Despite the importance of his administration, is only slightly less obscure than the other presidents between Jackson and Lincoln, potentially because of the brevity of his run. Died of cholera barely over 100 days after leaving office and had the shortest natural lifespan of any president, dying at age 53.
- Zachary Taylor (1849–50, Whig). A popular Mexican-American War general from the South, pushed into office by the Whigs despite not being interested in it; first president to have held no prior political office and last to have been born before the ratification of the Constitution. Last president to have been a slave owner while in office. Died in office, possibly of gastroenteritis from eating spoiled cherries, possibly from 19th-century medicine.
- Millard Fillmore (1850–53, Whig). Made fun of for his name and remembered for pretty much nothing else. First president born in the 19th century. Second vice president to take office after his predecessor's death. Credited in his time with delaying the eventual Civil War thanks to the Compromise of 1850, nowadays seen as a counter-intuitive empowering of slave states. Sent Matthew Perry to Japan to make it open its borders and consequently can be considered responsible for Japan's entrance into the international political and economic theater. Later ran as a third-party presidential candidate in 1856 for the anti-immigrant and -Catholic American (or, more popularly, "Know Nothing") party. Founded the University of Buffalo the same year and acted as its first chancellor. Died in 1874.
- Franklin Pierce (1853–57, Democrat). First and only president from New Hampshire. Chosen as a compromise candidate by the divided Democrats after a career as a Congressman and general. A deeply unlucky man who suffered from deep depression and alcoholism for most of his life. Kicked the slavery can down the road one more time but contributed to mounting tensions by supporting the nullification of the Missouri Compromise; was immensely unpopular and not nominated by the Democrats to run for reelection. Died in 1869.
- James Buchanan (1857–61, Democrat). Consistently considered one of the worst to ever hold the office, if not the worst, since The American Civil War started at the end of his tenure and he did little to try and stop it. Ironically selected as the Democratic nominee due to his distance from the slavery issue due to serving as ambassador to Britain during Pierce's administration. First president from Pennsylvania, which he had represented in both houses of Congress. Last president born in the 18th century. Only president never to have been married; may have been secretly homosexual, with many biographers giving as much or more attention to his very close friendship with his roommate (and Pierce's short-lived vice-president) William R. King than to his actual political actions. First president to face a serious impeachment attempt for corruption—it went as far as the investigative process, but the investigating committee ultimately recommended against it while at the same time finding his administration the most corrupt yet.note Died in 1868.
- Abraham Lincoln (1861–65, Republican/National Union; first Republican president). Consistently ranked in polls as the greatest president in US history, above even Washington, because of his successful leadership during the Civil War and his vital importance to the abolition of slavery in America. Born in Kentucky, but first politician from Illinois to become president. Only served a single term as a representative in the late 1840s and had not won an election for over a decade before winning the presidency, but his exemplary oratory performance in the debates during a later campaign for the Senate (and his relative distance from Congress' last decade of fighting) set him up to win the presidency; despite being a moderate, his party's anti-slavery platform led seven Southern states to secede after his election, making him the first president not to experience a peaceful transition of power. Greatly expanded the power of the federal government and executive branch as part of the war effort, becoming in some ways the first "modern" president. Tallest president.note First president to have facial hair in office. Assassinated by Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth and thus was the first to be successfully assassinated and third to die in office. Featured on the penny and the $5 bill.
- Andrew Johnson (1865–69, National Union/de facto Democrat). Former senator of Tennessee and the only Southern senator to stick with the Union after secession; subsequently became military governor of his state and was selected as Lincoln's vice president for his second election campaign on a unity platform. Became third VP to inherit office, resulting in a complete shift in executive priorities; he is a fixture of modern lists of "the worst presidents" due to his Southern sympathies and obstruction of the supermajority Republican Congress (and alcoholism). First president to be impeached but was acquitted by a single vote; his charge was mostly politically motivated, as he ignored (probably unconstitutional) laws that Congress passed just to limit his power that were repealed soon after he left office. Also oversaw improved relations with Britain and signed the Alaska Purchase. Despite his unpopularity, only former president to be elected to the Senate, though he died in 1875 soon after returning to Congress.note
- Ulysses S. Grant (1869–77, Republican). The greatest Civil War general. Initially considered a subpar president due to corruption scandals, but his reputation is on the rise due to his Fair for Its Day civil rights record, which included defeating the first Ku Klux Klan. First president to have been a four-star general.note Last president to have owned a slave at some point in his life.note Lived in near poverty for much of his post-presidency and died of cancer in 1885 (probably caused by his well-known cigar habit). Featured on the $50 bill.
- Rutherford B. Hayes (1877–81, Republican). A former governor/Congressman from Ohio and Civil War general. Won the closest (and potentially most fraudulent) election in American history, winning by literally one electoral vote; second president to lose the popular vote, only president to win despite his opponent having over 50% of the popular vote. As part of the compromise that made him president, agreed not to run for re-election and to end Reconstruction in the South that had ramped up in earnest under Grant. Died in 1893.
- James Garfield (March–September 1881, Republican). A long-time Ohio Representative with an impressive beard. Won nomination on the 36th ballot of the GOP convention against former President Grant and won the popular vote by just 2,000 votes out of some nine million cast;note only sitting member of the House of Representatives to be elected president. Assassinated by a disgruntled office seeker and thus the second president to be assassinated.
- Chester A. Arthur (1881–85, Republican). First president born in Vermont and fourth vice president to inherit office. Democrats alleged that he was born a British subject, first in Ireland and later in Canada. Despite coming from the corrupt New York political machine, finally gave civil service meaningful reform, likely influenced by Garfield's assassination. Had crazy facial hair. Installed an elevator in the White House. Died of a cerebral hemorrhage barely a year after his term, giving him the second-shortest post-presidency.
- Grover Cleveland (1885–89, Democrat). Former Governor of New York. First (and only) president born in New Jersey. First president to marry in the White House, to a woman who was effectively his adopted daughter.
- Benjamin Harrison (1889–93, Republican). William Henry Harrison's grandson and the first president to be grandson of a former president. Born and raised in Ohio but later became the first and only Indiana politician (in his case, senator) to become president. Third president to lose the popular vote and the second to do so twice. A major technophile: he installed electricity in the White House, was the first to put a lighted Christmas tree in the White House, and was the first president to have his voice recorded. Died in 1901.
- Grover Cleveland (1893–97, Democrat). Only president to serve two non-consecutive terms; although folks tend to prefer his first term. Became the first president to be captured on motion picture film during this term, while inaugurating William McKinley. Died in 1908.
- William McKinley (1897–1901, Republican). Former Congressman from and governor of Ohio. Drove up the international/imperial (depending on whom you ask) turn in high-level American policy. First president whose opponent publicly and formally conceded their loss in the presidential election, with William Jennings Bryan doing so by telegram in 1896.note Third president to be assassinated, specifically by anarchist Leon Czolgosz, ironically next to an X-ray machine that could have been used to save his life.note
- Theodore Roosevelt (1901–09, Republican). Definitely a Memetic Badass, perhaps the biggest to hold the office. Former governor of New York before becoming McKinley's VP. Youngest person to become president; fifth vice president to inherit the office and first to be subsequently elected to a full term. Known for trustbusting, conservation, and supporting progressive reforms (though not the kind of "progressive" we think of today). First president to win a Nobel Peace Prize. First president to run on the ballot for a third term and first to run as part of a different party than when he was in office (his own Progressive Party, aka "the Bull Moose Party"), splitting the party and costing the Republicans the presidency. Eventually reconciled with his old party and became their top pick for nomination in the 1920 election but died of a pulmonary embolism in 1919 before that could come to fruition.
- William Howard Taft (1909–13, Republican). First president to be elected without having served in the military or been elected to a prior office; was a judge, the appointed civilian governor of the Philippines (and, briefly, Cuba), and Roosevelt's Secretary of War. The heaviest president and last to sport facial hair in office; most frequently remembered for getting stuck in the White House bathtub, which never actually happened. Placed third in the 1912 election when Teddy Roosevelt came out of retirement and split the Republican vote. The only president to have been born in September. Only president to serve on the US Supreme Court (as Chief Justice, no less, from 1921 to his death in 1930), thereby being the only person to have been head of two branches.note
- Woodrow Wilson (1913–21, Democrat). First Southerner elected president since before the Civil War;note later served as the president of Princeton before being elected Governor of New Jersey, making him also the only Jersey politician to be elected president; only president with a doctorate, a Ph.D. (though nobody ever invoked the title when referring to him, in part because "Mr. President" had already been set-in-stone tradition for 124 years). Was re-elected for keeping America out of World War I, but sent men to Europe—with popular support—less than a year later in part due to the interception of the Zimmermann Telegram by British intelligence and German attacks on American merchant ships; helped set up the League of Nations after the war but couldn't get a hostile Congress on board (after the Democrats held both houses for his first six years, the Republicans flipped them in 1918). Had a stroke and his wife secretly ran the country for the last few months of his second term. A fairly popular president during most of his tenure, lost most of said popularity by the end, and his reputation spiraled even further downward in later decades thanks to increased awareness of his overt racism; was notably responsible for re-segregating federal agencies and enabling the racially tense environment that led to the revival of the Ku Klux Klan. Died in 1924.
- Warren Harding (1921–23, Republican). Former Senator from Ohio (and the first president elected as such directly from the Senate), ran on a "Return to Normalcy" platform after WWI. An infamously bad public speaker, to the extent where contemporaries referred to his phrasing as if it were another language entirely. Notorious for corruption under his administration, especially after it ended with his early death from a heart attack or stroke midway through his term, though some believe his wife poisoned him for his many infidelities; the only president proven to have fathered a child from an extramarital affair.note
- Calvin Coolidge (1923–29, Republican). Second and latest president born in Vermont, first Massachusetts politician (in his case, governor) to be elected president since the Adamses. Often silent, to the point where he had the tersest oath of office on record ("I do"). First president to have his inauguration broadcast on radio. So far the only president to have been born on the Fourth of July (Independence Day). Second VP to inherit the office and then win re-election. Died in 1933.
- Herbert Hoover (1929–33, Republican). Second president to have not served in elected office or the military prior to taking the office; previously a mining engineer, then humanitarian (not that kind) who had served as the director of the Food Administration during WWI and later as Secretary of Commerce before running for office. Frequently scorned by historians for his inaction towards or compounding of problems during The Great Depression. First president to win with a non-White running mate (Charles Curtis, a member of Kaw Nation and the only person of Native American heritage to sit as vice president so far). Had the second-longest retirement of any president, living 31 more years and outliving Kennedy.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933–45, Democrat). Fifth cousin of Theodore Roosevelt and, like him, former Governor of New York; only president directly related to a previous one without being their descendant. Served four terms, two more than any other president (though he died a few months into the fourth), leading the nation through the Great Depression and most of World War II. Introduced New Deal programs, especially Social Security, that were immensely popular with the working class and forever transformed American ideas of the role of government. Won the highest percentage of electoral votes out of any candidate in a non-unanimous election, at 98.5% in 1936, and had a significant movement among his supporters to try installing him as a dictator (back when such a position wasn't associated with brutal authoritarianism), but ultimately governed pretty much within the extent of his constitutionally-imposed limits. Only serving president to have a disability, being paralyzed from the waist down,note though he kept this a well-dressed Open Secret and refrained from using a wheelchair in public. First president to appear in a televised broadcast. Last president to die of natural causes while in office. First president to be inaugurated on January 20 (his second inauguration), owing to the 20th Amendment shifting Inauguration Day from March 4. Only sitting president to die from Retirony (he had planned to resign due to declining health once World War II was over, but a cerebral hemorrhage did him in the month before), and the only sitting president to be listed a casualty of war while in office (it was said at the time that the years of responsibility had taken their toll on his health, culminating in said hemorrhage). Featured on the dime.
- Harry Truman (1945–53, Democrat). The only president from Missouri. While serving as senator, nominated as vice president for Roosevelt's fourth campaign due to having more moderate views than predecessor Henry A. Wallace, then inherited the office three months after inauguration, becoming the seventh VP to do so. Oversaw the end of WWII and authorized the first and only use of nuclear weapons in war. Oversaw the creation of the United Nations and NATO, desegregated the military and the civil service. Third VP to inherit office to win re-election. Was exempted from the 22nd Amendmentnote through ex post facto (as it was ratified during his tenure) but decided to stick to just two terms anyway due to the waning popularity of his second term. Despite many decisions controversial both now and at the time, had a better civil rights record than many of his contemporaries. Likely the poorest ever president; Congress doubled the president's salary and created a pension just to keep him financially afloat prior to his death in 1972. Also famous for his full name being "Harry S. Truman" (yes, the "S" is actually his full middle name, not an initial), giving him the distinction of having the shortest middle name of any president, discounting those who had no middle names.
- Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953–61, Republican). The Supreme Commander of the Allies in Europe in World War II; as a result, had a litany of military presidential firsts, including the first president since Grant who was a general officer; first president to earn a knighthood from a foreign nation (22 in fact).note Final president born in the 19th century. Only president from Kansas. First to be limited to two terms (per the 22nd Amendment), and first to appear in a color television broadcast. Kicked off the Space Race and signed the National Aeronautics and Space Act. Also started American involvement in Vietnam and reluctantly lent executive support to the Brown v. Board of Education decision regarding racial integration of public schools. Died in 1969.
- John F. Kennedy (1961–63, Democrat). A representative (1947–1953) and senator (1953–1960) from Massachusetts, and a member of one of the state's most prominent political families. Youngest elected president, with many associating his successful campaign with his good looks and stirring oratory, especially during the televised presidential debates (the first of their kind). First non-WASP, non-Old Stock, White-ethnic, and Catholic president, and last Northeastern president until Trump. A notorious womanizer, which is still a popular subject of parody to this day, alongside his distinctively thick New England accent. Oversaw the Cuban Missile Crisis, instigated the mission to put a man on the moon (which would take the rest of the decade to fulfill), and voiced support of the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement. Last president to be assassinated and last to die in office; his death is still plagued by conspiracy theories, to the point where it has its own trope; earliest-appointed president to have his own trope on this wiki and only one of two (alongside Trump) to hold such a distinction. Featured on the half dollar.
- Lyndon Johnson (1963–69, Democrat). Very Texan, very aggressive, very odd, and very different from Kennedy, but tried his best to continue his legacy. The first president from the Lone Star State,note becoming vice president after a long career in the Senate. Won election to a full term in a landslide carried by national unity after Kennedy's death and his opponent Barry Goldwater being viewed as an extremist. Last Democrat to carry Alaska, the Dakotas, Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma, Utah, and Wyoming. Used this support to pass landmark Civil Rights legislation at the cost of splitting the Democratic Party — it encouraged most of the Democratic officeholders and voters in the South who didn't die or retire to flip to the Republicans. Tried to launch a "War on Poverty" to expand social welfare but ultimately diverted funds towards escalating The Vietnam War (though he tried unsuccessfully to sue for peace). Chose not to run for re-election in 1968, despite being allowed to under the 22nd Amendment,note due to his unpopular handling of the war in Vietnam. Died in 1973.
- Richard Nixon (1969–74, Republican). First non-incumbent vice president to become president, having previously lost in the race against Kennedy after serving under Eisenhower. Only native-born Californian to be president.note Presided over the moon landing and the end of the Space Race. Passed some environmental and workplace regulatory legislation seen as fairly progressive by modern Republican standards. Opened relations with Red China and sought "peace with honor" in The Vietnam War while aiming to cool down the Cold War. Definitely corrupt—er, not a crook, fueled in part by worsening paranoia regarding his political opponents. Did Watergate despite easily winning reelection (becoming the last Republican to carry Minnesota) and decided to resign (the only president to do so) before impeachment proceedings could begin, which remains all most remember about him despite having a fairly solid record prior to that. Last president to die during the 20th century, passing in 1994.
- Gerald Ford (1974–77, Republican). Only president who wasn't elected as either president or vice president; his predecessor as VP, Spiro Agnew, had to resign due to his own scandal, so Ford, the House minority leader, was appointed before Nixon's resignation. Controversially pardoned Nixon at the start of his term.note Only president from Michigan. Only president whose would-be assassins were female. Oversaw the end of the Vietnam War and bolstered the period of détente with the Soviet Union. Marked the increasing involvement of Congress and decreasing involvement of the presidency in foreign policy procedure. Witnessed the worst economic recession since the Great Depression, which bled over into Carter's term. Fell down steps of Air Force One and consequently became remembered by a generation of Americans for Chevy Chase's caricaturing of him as The Klutz on Saturday Night Live.note Had the shortest presidency not cut off by death, at 895 days; conversely, had the third-longest retirement of any president, beaten out only by Hoover and Carter, before dying in 2006.
- Jimmy Carter (1977–81, Democrat). Living. Was a Farm Boy from Georgia who became the state's governor and was attacked by a bunny; his Washington-outsider image and wholesome persona helped him win election after the backlash against Nixon's corruption. Last Democrat to carry Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas. Made some progress towards resolving the ArabIsraeli Conflict and kept the US out of foreign wars, but could not get a handle on the stagflating economy and had several things go wrong abroad in 1979, most notably the Nicaraguan and Iranian revolutions and especially the hostage crisis that followed the latter (which only ended mere minutes after his successor's inauguration). Only president to admit to filing a UFO report (though he suspected the object of being a military project, not aliens). Infinitely more popular as a former president due to his charity work, which got him the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002; longest-lived president, longest post-presidency of any president, and first to live at least 40 years after being inaugurated.
- Ronald Reagan (1981–89, Republican). Previously governor of California, and before that a cowboy actor and president of the Screen Actors Guild, making him the Trope Maker for the "Celebrity President" (even if he was always a B-lister). A very divisive figure in retrospect but very popular while in office; was the last Republican to carry Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington, and won the electoral vote against Walter Mondale everywhere but DC and Mondale's home state of Minnesota when running for his second term. A strong believer in "supply-side" or "trickle-down" economics and oversaw substantial deregulation of the private sector. Credited with helping end the Cold War thanks to his diplomacy and military spending, even if its resolution came during his successor's tenure. Most commonly criticized for his poor handling of the AIDS crisis (deliberately suppressing information about the disease) as well as for instituting the economic policies that worsened later recessions. First president to survive being wounded in an assassination attempt while in office.note Had several controversies towards the end of his run, possibly due to an undiagnosed onset of Alzheimer's; raised the profile of the disease in his post-presidency before dying from complications of it in 2004, making him the first president to die in the 21st century (just over exactly a decade after Nixon's passing).
- George H. W. Bush (1989–93, Republican). Was the CIA Director before becoming vice president to Reagan. Last president born in Massachusetts but lived in and represented Texas after his WWII service. Rode Reagan's popularity to victory; first sitting vice president elected president since Van Buren 152 years prior; last incumbent vice president to become president; last Republican President to win the popular vote for his first (and only, in his case) term; last Republican to carry California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, and Vermont. A notoriously bad public speaker, which immediately harmed his reputation as the successor to the charismatic Reagan. Oversaw the end of the Cold War and the entirety of the Gulf War. Vomited on the prime minister of Japan and consequently became a quintessential example of Person as Verb over there. Famously said "read my lips: no new taxes", which backfired when he had to raise taxes during a recession and probably cost him reelection. Died in 2018, making him the most recent former president who passed away.
- Bill Clinton (1993–2001, Democrat). Living. A centrist who favored continued deregulation; as a result, the last Democrat to carry Montana, Missouri, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and his home state of Arkansas, where he had served as governor. Last president to sign a budget with a surplus. Often called "the first Black president" in his time, despite being White, due to his background of lower-class struggle that resonated with redlined Black voters. Husband to Hillary Rodham Clinton, who went on to become the most politically active (and most controversial) former First Lady, becoming Senator for New York and later Secretary of State under Obama in addition to launching two unsuccessful bids for the presidency. Was impeached but not convicted during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, making him the first president since Andrew Johnson to be impeached. Used to be one of the most beloved Democratic presidents since World War II, nowadays one of the more divisive ones on account of his treatment of women and economic policies that led to the 21st century's major recessions.
- George W. Bush (2001–09, Republican). Living. Former Governor of Texas and second son of a former president to become president himself; fourth and most recent president to have lineage directly traceable to a previous president. Generally considered by historians to be more of a figurehead under the far more powerful vice president Dick Cheney, though public opinion is still fairly split on what to make of him. Inherited his father's bad public speaking skills and consequently added countless new words to the public consciousness. Fourth president to lose the popular vote (and first in over a century) and only one to win reelection with the popular vote; his initial victory had to be decided by the Supreme Court following a flawed vote in Florida that necessitated a recount, but he achieved the highest approval rating ever recorded (92%) after 9/11, making him the last Republican president to serve a second term and to win the popular vote. His approval heavily plummeted after his conception and prosecution of The War on Terror and poor response to Hurricane Katrina came under heavy criticism; this and the Great Recession resulted in him leaving with the lowest approval rating ever recorded (19%).
- Barack Obama (2009–17, Democrat). Living. First African-American/interracial president. Only president born in Hawaii, but (briefly) represented Illinois in the Senate before his election. Led the country out of the Great Recession and passed what was regarded as groundbreaking health care reform; arguably the first president since Carter to fight for greater federal regulation and intervention to help the working class, though further legislative aims were mostly impeded by a conservative House for most of his presidency. Received a Nobel Peace Prize a few months into his presidency, which even he pointed out was a little strange, as U.S. military intervention in the Middle East continued throughout his presidency. Also frequently criticized for his inaction towards immigration reform, though he did try to circumvent Congress with executive action to offer protections to immigrant children. Still known as a constant source of (mostly) lighthearted Memetic Mutation, thanks to both his charismatic and youthful persona and his presidency overlapping the Internet's expansion into the mainstream.
- Donald Trump (2017–21, Republican). Living. One of the most divisive figures ever to hold the office. Unique in many respects: First president not to have held any prior political (elected or appointed) or military office; likely the wealthiest president;note first to have primary residence in Florida;note first to have hosted a reality television show; the only president to have managed a Professional Wrestling match at WrestleMania. Third to have "won" a Golden Raspberry Award, second to have done so playing himself, and first to have done so before his presidency. Ran on a strongly populist and nationalist platform and disrupted or ignored many of the expectations of "presidential" behavior. Fifth president to lose the popular vote and third to lose it twice.note Third president to be impeached/acquitted, in his case for pressuring the Ukrainian president to investigate Joe Biden, whom he expected would be the one to challenge him when he ran for another term. First president to run for re-election after his impeachment. The final year of his Presidency was dominated by the COVID-19 Pandemic, which he wavered between denying, ignoring, or downplaying. Most recent incumbent president to lose re-election (and thus the most recent one-term president).note First sitting president to refuse to concede an election loss, instead filing lawsuits and pressuring election officials to invalidate Biden's victory in 2020, culminating with his supporters storming the Capitol while Congress counted the ballots, ending the streak of peaceful transfers of power that dated back to the Civil War. Finally conceded after that failed to prevent certification, though continued to insist the election was rigged and did not attend his successor's inauguration, a first since Andrew Johnson snubbed Grant. Was ultimately impeached and acquitted again on charges of inciting insurrection, making him the first president to be impeached twice and the first to have his trial occur after leaving office.note Only president other than Kennedy to have his own trope on this wiki thanks to his longtime status as a Fountain of Expies.
- Joe Biden (2021–present, Democrat). Incumbent. Most recent vice president to become president, having served under Obama after 36 years as senator of Delaware.note Only president to represent Delaware and the first born in Pennsylvania since Buchanan. Oldest person to win a presidential election and oldest president ever; at 78 years, 61 days upon taking office, was older than the second oldest, Reagan, was upon leaving office (which he did at 77 years, 348 days). Currently the only member of the Silent Generation to be president.note First Catholic president since Kennedy;note first president to win with a woman and second with a non-White person (Kamala Harris, of Black and Indian descent) as his running mate. Had more popular votes cast for him than any other presidential candidate in history; won the largest percentage of the popular vote of any challenging candidate since FDR in 1932. First president since Lincoln to lack a peaceful transition of power to his administration, with Trump supporters storming the Capitol building to attempt to stop his certification. Like the final year of his predecessor, Biden's term has so far been defined by its response to COVID-19 and the accompanying recession.
Despite what Histeria! may have said about his being president for one day between Polk and Taylor, any attempts to put David Rice Atchison on this list will be dismissed in the traditional manner.Context So will any attempts to add John Hanson or any other presidents of the Continental Congress.
An urban legend, popularized by Ripley's Believe It or Not! in 1931, claims that there is a curse upon the presidency. This curse, variously known as the "Curse of Tippecanoe", "Tecumseh's Curse" and the "Zero-Year Curse", states that any president who is elected in a year ending in a zero (1840, 1860, etc.) will die in office or have a near miss. It was allegedly placed upon William Henry Harrison by Tecumseh's brother Tenskwatana during the Indian wars and the War of 1812, in which Harrison won two decisive battles against Tecumseh in present-day Indiana and Ontario (the latter leading to Tecumseh's death). Whatever the curse's validity, it was apparently "broken" by either Ronald Reagan (if deaths alone count), or George W. Bush (if near-misses count as well)note as both survived to serve two full terms. Only time will tell what happens after the 2020 election.note
There is also a band called The Presidents of the United States of America; however, no holder of this office has yet been a member of the band. However, the band members did a parody of the presidential race in which each member had a campaign video to be elected president ... of the Presidents. They did play at the White House, by Chelsea Clinton's request, though. Rumor has it, Bill Clinton played sax with them during that show.
Jonathan Coulton has two songs about them: One ("The Presidents") is simply their names and a small factoid about them, and the other ("Washy Ad Jeffy") is a mnemonic device designed to help you remember their names and how many terms they served (by way of the number of syllables in the name). Other songs include this one from Animaniacs.
With one exception, every American president is descended from King John of England. He's the king from the Robin Hood stories and the one who was forced to sign the Magna Carta. The one exception is Martin Van Buren (Were you expecting Obama?), whose ancestry is Dutch on both sides. All of the other 44 mennote to hold the executive office have British blood in them that can be traced back to King John. And even then, Van Buren is still related to King John, as his descent has been traced via separate lines of descent from King John's mother and paternal great-grandparents. In fact, Van Buren was still descended from William the Conqueror, who was also an ancestor of King John, so every president is descended from the Norman king who conquered England.note
Some presidents who typically rank very high in "greatest presidents" historian/scholar polls include George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Some who are usually found at the very bottom include William Henry Harrison, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, and Warren Harding. A few are more popular in public polls than in scholarly ones, such as Andrew Jackson, John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan. There has been some reappraisal of some presidents often ranked neither at the absolute top nor the absolute bottom due to their civil rights record and Values Dissonance, which also partly explains, for instance, why Andrew Johnson was slightly more popular with historians until about the 1960s or so than he is today.
Four of the first five presidents were from Virginia, giving rise to the term "Virginia Dynasty" though they were not related beyond the trivial. Until The American Civil War most presidents were either Southerners themselves or "Doughfaces", that is, Northerners with Southern sympathies. Since the Civil War, this has turned around quite a bit, with Woodrow Wilson arguably the first with Doughface or Southern leaningsnote and most presidents from both parties standing more on the side of Civil Rights than the South from the 1950s onwards. (Fun fact: A disproportionate number of presidents have been either New Yorkers or Ohioans, at thirteen. Statistically speaking, this is likely because New York has always been one of the most populous states in the union since the Revolution, while Ohio has been a crucial swing state in presidential elections for a very, very long time.)
For the action film, see Dead Presidents. For the much-desired pictures of dead presidents (plus a few other people), see American Money. For the president of the Confederate States of America during The American Civil War, see Jefferson Davis. For a list of those who were "one life away" from being president, see The Vice Presidents. And finally, for portrayals of the presidency in fiction, see Our Presidents Are Different.
Well, it just might be yourself one day
Then the press will distort everything you say
So jump in your plane and fly away!"