Features/Presidents

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President: one who presides.

This piece is sort of stream of conciousness, written as I researched. Because it was more interesting that way.


A while ago, looking at a list of U.S. Presidents that included their proffesions. I was struck by how many of them were one of three things: Soldier, Lawyer, or Farmer (farmer including plantation owner, rancher, etc.)

In fact I didn't see one in the list until Andrew Johnson, who was a tailor (not to be confused with Andrew Jackson who was both soldier and lawyer). But he was never elected, he came into office when Lincoln (a lawyer) was shot. Interestingly, he was the one and only artisan president.

Now, I had been counting Garfield as the first president who was elected who was not a soldier, a lawyer, or a farmer, and he was shot after 4 months in office. But then I found out he was a general in the Civil War. Yes, yes, I admit that was a major oversight, but who knows anything about James Garfield?

So it turns out no elected president of the United States was not a soldier, lawyer, or a farmer until the 28th, Woodrow Wilson! In 1913! The president who led the US in WWI! And there have been no more than six since, tops.

Oh, and he was a minority president. Only 42% of the people voted for him. More people voted Republican, except Roosevelt and Taft split the Republican vote, and Wilson got (practically) all the votes from the Democrats and the Socialists. Also, he nearly lost at the Democratic convention to Champ Clark. (Aren't you glad we never had a president named Champ?).

. . .

Ahh! Wilson was a failed lawyer! He was a drop out from Law School of the University of Virginia, and then later worked as a lawyer (and failing) for 15 months before going to John Hopkins for his doctorate (his dissertation analyzed the weaknesses of leadership in the American constitutional system).

Well, on to Harding, #29 . . .

. . . whew! He qualifies.

So the first elected President who was neither soldier, nor lawyer, nor yet a farmer was the 29th! president in 1921, Warren G. Harding. Though he came close to all three: he grew up on a farm, the son of a veteran, and "for a time the ex-schoolteacher tried reading law in a lawyer's office but soon found the texts of Blackstone too much for him." But finally, he settled on a career as a newspaper owner.


Let's see, after Harding . . .

Coolidge, lawyer.

Hoover! Hoover was an engineer (thus, the Hoover Dam).

F.D. Roosevelt, lawyer.

Truman, farmer.

Eisenhower, soldier.

Kennedy was never professionally one of the three (he was a reporter, or rather he was the son of a banker who did some reporting and writing), but he did serve in the navy in WWII.

Johnson qualifies, he was a teacher! Funny, both Johnsons qualify.

Nixon, lawyer.

Ford, lawyer.

Carter, farmer.

Reagan was an actor, but he was also a captain in the US Army after serving for three years in WWII

The elder Bush was for a time the Navy's youngest pilot. Though professionally, he was a business tycoon.

Clinton, lawyer.

Total qualifiers: 4

From before the 20th Century: 1, who was not elected.

A. Johnson (1865-1869), Harding (1921-1923), Hoover (1929-1933) and L. Johnson (1963-1969) for a combined total of 17 years, out of 211 years from 1789 - 2000.

The more in depth information came from the biographies at http://gi.grolier.com/presidents/ea/prescont.html

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