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 (and if it's the State of the Union, Mister/Madam Speaker), the presidents of the United States! ("Hail to the Chief" starts playing.)
Specifically, the presidents of the United States of America; 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.note They are, in order:
- George Washington (1789–97, independent/de facto Federalist). First president elected under the Constitution. note Led the Continental Army during The American Revolution. Often held up as a real-life case of First Installment Wins, with only Lincoln regularly outranking him in scholarly and popular polls. Only one of two presidents — the other being James Monroe — to run unopposed and consequently one of the only two to be elected unanimously. Generally regarded as having made a lot of very good suggestions for the country's future upon his departure that nobody bothered to follow, such as advising against forming political parties — he's the only president not to be a member of one. 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 (cue 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."note 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 wartime president, first without a military background, first who did not own slaves, and first to veto no bills while in office. Credited for continuing Washington’s neutrality policy to avoid war with Europe, building up a Navy, and negotiated a peace treaty with France to end the undeclared "Quasi War". Also notorious for signing the Alien and Sedition Acts that passed to restrict freedom of speech and immigration, 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. Resentfully but gracefully returned home after his loss, and in doing so quietly instituted the tradition of peaceful transitions of power that (mostly) remained the standard. Died on the Fourth of July (Independence Day) of 1826, the same day as...
- Thomas Jefferson (1801–09, Democratic-Republican). Notable for writing 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, his lifelong frenemy). Though normally an advocate for a smaller federal government, actually expanded its power while president, most notably by ratifying the Louisiana Purchase that doubled the size of the nation's territory claims. Also declared the First Barbary War. As a public and vocal Deist, arguably the only non-Christian president; indeed, he explored a wide variety of religions in his lifetime, most notably Islam; to this day, many Muslim Congressmen have opted to be sworn in on his copy of the Qu'ran. 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. Is condemned by some people today 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 . 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 as the 5th 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 (1790–94) and governor (1799–1802 on a permanent basis, and on an acting basis in early 1811) 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 statement 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 to be a Founding Father, last of whom no photography exists, and the last to wear a powdered wig/long hair in a ponytail. 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 officeholder (John Adams, his father); alongside George W. Bush, one of the only two presidents to be the son of a previous president. First president to be inaugurated with long trousers and short hair (as opposed to the previous first five presidents) 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 The only president elected to the House after his presidency, where he had a long and productive run as a vocal opponent of slavery and 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 (1797–98, 1823–25), and the first governor of the Florida Territory for most of 1821; 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. Malicious slander regarding the circumstances of his marriage is credited with having broken his wife down and sent her to an early grave shortly after his election; Jackson never recovered from the loss. 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 (1821–28) and (briefly in 1829) governor of New York, then Jackson's Secretary of State and second 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 (he served in the House from 1816–19 and in the Senate from 1825–28) to be elected president. Oldest president inaugurated at the time, at 68 years old, a record that stood for 140 years until Ronald Reagan was inaugurated two weeks shy of turning 70 in 1981, followed by Donald Trump at the age of 70 in 2017 and later Joe Biden at the age of 78 in 2021. Died of pneumonia on April 4, 1841, which was only one month after taking office and one week after becoming ill with a cold; 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 else 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.
- John Tyler (1841–45, Whig/Independent). A former Virginia representative (1816–1821), governor (1825–27), and senator (1827–36), 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, serving almost all of Harrison's term. Initially joined the Whigs due to opposing Andrew Jackson, only to be kicked out of the party for constantly impeding them and obstructing their ideas to help America recover from the Panic of 1837 (making him the only president ever to be officially expelled from his own party while in office).note Also notorious for being the first president to have a veto overridden by Congress and to be threatened with a serious (yet unsuccessful) impeachment investigation (making him one of the only two presidents to come very close to impeachment, the only other president being Richard Nixon). Oversaw some accomplishments in foreign policy, most notably (and controversially) the annexation of Texas.note Also the first president to get married (remarried) while in office and fathered most children of any president (fifteen), despite dying 160 years ago, he still has a living grandson. After concluding his presidency, he 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 (making him the only former president ever to run for an office outside the United States proper) but died of a stroke on January 18, 1862 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 representative (1825–39) and governor (1839–41); only president to have been Speaker of the House, which he was from December 1835 until he went back to state politics. Pledged to serve just one term and in that time did everything he said he would: vastly expand the country to the Pacific by annexing the Republic of Texas, settle border disputes with Britain in the Northwest, and go 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 and modern disapproval of militaristic expansion. 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 his home state's 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). Former U.S. Representative from upstate New York (1833–35 and 1837–43) and state Comptroller (1848–49). 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 counterproductive 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 (he represented the state in the House at large from 1833–37 and in the Senate from 1837–42) 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 (1821–31 as a representative, 1834–45 as a senator), and the only one who's yet served while living in that state full-time. 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 since John Tyler to face a serious impeachment attempt; in this case, for corruption—it went as far as the investigative process, but the committee ultimately recommended against the resolution to impeach him while finding his administration corrupt at the same time.note Died of pneumonia in 1868.
- Abraham Lincoln (1861–65, Republican/National Union; first Republican president). Consistently ranked in polls as the greatest president in US history, rivaled by George Washington, because of his successful leadership during the Civil War and his vital importance in reuniting the nation and helping to abolish slavery throughout America. Born in Kentucky, but he moved with his family to Illinois as a boy and would become the president from that state. Only served a single term as a representative (1847–49), during which he had witnessed the passing of former President John Quincy Adams on the House floor in 1848, and had not won an election for over a decade before winning the presidency, but his exemplary oratory performance in the debates during his 1858 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. Only President to have busted a quorum during his Congressional career, albeit unsuccessfully. 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 presidentnote and the first to have facial hair in office and the only one until Biden who was inaugurated without any peaceful conditions. Assassinated at Ford’s Theater by Confederate sympathizer and actor John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln was the first president to be successfully assassinated and the third to die in office. Featured on the penny and the $5 bill.
- Andrew Johnson (1865–69, National Union/de facto Democrat). A representative (1843–53), governor (1853–57), and senator (1857–62) of Tennessee and the only Southern senator to stick with the Union after secession; Lincoln subsequently made him military governor of his state and his running mate for his second election campaign on a unity platform. He became third VP to inherit office after their predecessor’s death and the first to gain office by his predecessor’s assassination,note resulting in a complete shift in executive priorities. Three months after Booth’s own murder by an overzealous religious sergeant named Boston Corbett, Johnson permitted the executions of his attempted assassin George Atzerodt, Lewis Powell, David Herold, and their landlady Mary Surratt on July 7, 1865. Because of his stubbornness and ego, he is a fixture of modern lists of "the worst presidents" due to his Southern sympathies, obstruction of the supermajority Republican Congress' goals regarding Reconstruction and civil rights for freed slaves, (and alcoholism). First president to officially 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, he was the 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 Ohio representative (1865–67) and governor (1868–72 and 1876–77) 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 (1863–80) 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 person elected president while sitting as a member of the House of Representatives. 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. Despite coming from the corrupt New York political machine (having never himself been elected to any political office prior to running as VP), finally gave civil service meaningful reform, likely influenced by Garfield's assassination. Democrats alleged that he was born a British subject, first in Ireland and later in Canada. 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 (1882–83) 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 (senator from 1881–87) 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 (1877–84 and 1885–91) from and governor (1892–96) 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 (1899–1900) before becoming McKinley's VP; previously, he was also assistant secretary of the Navy (1897–98). 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 been either elected to a prior office or served in the military; he had been 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 until his retirement due to poor health 33 days before his death in 1930), thereby being the only person to have been head of two federal branches.
- Woodrow Wilson (1913–21, Democrat). First Southerner elected president since before the Civil War.note He later served as the president of Princeton before being elected governor of New Jersey (1911–13), 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 newly hostile Congress on board. 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 but 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 G. Harding (1921–23, Republican). Former Senator from Ohio (1915–21; the first president elected 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 (culminating in service as governor from 1919–21) to be president since the Adamses. Often silent, to the point where he had the briefest oath of office on record ("I do"). 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. First president to have his inauguration broadcast on radio. 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 the director of the Food Administration during WWI and Secretary of Commerce under Harding and Coolidge 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 running mate with non-White European ancestry (Charles Curtis, a mixed-race 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 (1929–32) and assistant secretary of the Navy (1913–20); 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 mostly 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 up until shortly before his death. First president to appear in a televised broadcast. First president to be inaugurated on January 20 (at his second inauguration in 1937), owing to the 20th Amendment shifting Inauguration Day from March 4. Last president to die of natural causes while in office, 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 S. Truman (1945–53, Democrat). The only president from Missouri, which he represented in the Senate from 1935–45. Party leaders nominated him as vice president for Roosevelt's fourth campaign due to having more moderate views than predecessor Henry A. Wallace, then he inherited the boss' office three months after inauguration, becoming the seventh VP to do so and third to win re-election. 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. 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 the "S" in his name actually being his full middle name, not an initial,note 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 (1947–53) and senator (1953–60) from Massachusetts, and a member of one of the state's most prominent political families. Youngest elected president at just 43 years old, 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 to die in office; the Warren Commission and most investigations concluded that he was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald, a former U.S. Marine and Marxist sympathizer who had acted alone. Due to Oswald’s own murder by distraught nightclub owner Jack Ruby two days later, Kennedy’s assassination is still plagued by conspiracy theories, to the point where it has its own trope, and the fact that it was caught on film gives him the odd distinction of being the only president to ever be the subject of a Snuff Film.note Due to the aforementioned 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 after his assassination, becoming the eighth VP to inherit the office. 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 (an interpretation Johnson himself encouraged). 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 by encouraging many White Southerners to leave. 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; before being veep, he represented it in the House (1947–50) and the Senate (1950–53).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 (yet, he failed to end the Vietnam War) while aiming to cool 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 and made him the second of only two presidents to be threatened with an unsuccessful impeachment attempt after John Tyler. Last president to die during the 20th century, passing away 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. Only president from Nebraska, where he was born, or Michigan, where he was raised and was a college football star before becoming a rep from 1949–73. 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, where he served as governor (1971–75) 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 Arab–Israeli 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 or leaving the office.
- Ronald Reagan (1981–89, Republican). Previously governor of California (1967–75), 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). Oldest president upon leaving office (two weeks shy of 78), was the oldest president to be inaugurated at the time (two weeks shy of 70), breaking a 140-year record held by William Henry Harrison that stood until Donald Trump was inaugurated at the age of 70 in 2017. 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. He was a strong believer in "supply-side" or "trickle-down" economics, and as such, 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; similarly received criticism for escalating the War on Drugs and for continuing/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.
- George H. W. Bush (1989–93, Republican). Was the CIA director (1976–77), U.S. ambassador to the UN (1971–73), and a U.S. representative (1967–71) before becoming vice president to Reagan. Despite being the last president born in Massachusetts, he lived in and represented Texas after his WWII service. Rode Reagan's popularity to victory; last President to succeed a President of the same party; first sitting VP elected president since Van Buren 152 years prior; last incumbent VP 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, making him the last incumbent president to lose re-election until Donald Trump, just 28 years later. Died in 2018, making him the most recent former president who passed away.
- Bill Clinton (1993–2001, Democrat). Living. Last Democrat to carry Montana, Missouri, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and his home state of Arkansas, where he had served as governor (1979–81 and 1983–92) and attorney general (1977–79). A centrist who favored continued deregulation (it was he, not Reagan, who signed the laws that made the large-scale deregulation of America's financial sector possible); 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 U.S. senator for New York (2001–09) and later Secretary of State under Obama (2009–13) 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 and acquitted. Used to be one of the most beloved Democratic presidents since World War II, nowadays one of the more divisive ones.
- George W. Bush (2001–09, Republican). Living. Former governor of Texas (1995–2000) 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%).note
- Barack Obama (2009–17, Democrat). Living. First African-American/interracial president. Only president born in Hawaii, but he moved to Chicago as a young man and served in the Illinois Senate from 1997–2004 and (briefly) represented Illinois in the U.S. Senate (from 2005–08) 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, and 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/ignored many of the expectations of "presidential" behavior. Third president to be impeached/acquitted, in his case for pressuring the Ukrainian president to investigate election opponent Joe Biden. First president to run for re-election after his impeachment, with his campaign coinciding with the COVID-19 Pandemic that he struggled with, compared to other world leaders. Most recent incumbent president to lose re-election (and thus the most recent one-term president).note Only 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 scheduled inauguration, a first since Andrew Johnson snubbed Ulysses S. Grant.note Was ultimately impeached and acquitted again; this time, on the charges of inciting insurrection, making him the first and only president to have been impeached/acquitted twice and have his trial occur after leaving office.note First president to seek reelection for a non-consecutive term since Theodore Roosevelt. Like Kennedy, he has his own trope on this wiki thanks to his longtime status as a Fountain of Expies.
- Joe Biden (2021–present, Democrat). Incumbent. Most recent VP to become president, having served under Obama.note Previously served for 36 years (1973–2009) as a senator from Delaware. 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, he 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 female running mate and, after Hoover, second with a non-White person (Kamala Harris, of Black and Indian descent). 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 transfer of power, with Trump supporters storming the Capitol building in their attempt to stop the certification of the election results. His term, carrying over from the end of Trump's, has so far been defined by its response to COVID-19 and the accompanying recession (marked by massive inflation), and the escalation of the Russo-Ukrainian war with the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
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 full and partial terms together 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 45 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
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. Those who are usually found at the very bottom include William Henry Harrison, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, and Warren G. Harding. A few are more popular in public polls than in scholarly ones, such as Andrew Jackson, John F. Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan.note There has been some reappraisal of some presidents for 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 of the United States. For the band, see The Presidents of the United States of America. 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!"