Notable Notes - Presidents of US

George Washington

Other Facts About Washington:

Did he chop down a cherry tree?

This story was apparently contrived by a man named Mason Weems who, after Washington's death, told the story to demostrate how honest the Father of His Country had been.

He did not have wooden teeth.

He had false teeth but they were not made of wood. His teeth were crafted from hippopotamus ivory, cow's teeth, metal, and even Washigton's own extracted teeth. The workmanship was pretty poor when compared to today's dentures.

He never lived in the White House.

The first President to live in the White House was John Adams and that was only the last few months of his Presidency. Even then it was not finished, especially inside. Abigail Adams, in letters to her friends, complained about lack of proper heat and other amenities. Adams successor, Thomas Jefferson, was not too happy with the building either as can be seen from some of his writings. Later Presidents may have been lucky that the British burned it during the War of 1812 and it had to be rebuilt.

The only children George Washington had were adopted.

Washington did not father any children. He married the widow Martha Custis who had two young children, a son and a daughter, and Washington adopted them. He and Martha also raised two of their grandchildren at Mt. Vernon.

He did not wear a wig.

Even though wigs were fashionable, Washington's hair was his own which he wore long and tied in the back. He powdered his hair in keeping with the custom of that period.

He was not born on February 22.

He was born February 11, 1732. However, in 1752 the American colonies switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar. The switch involved shifting dates by 11 and so moved his birthdate to February 22.

He never attended college.

The death of his father required him to devote his time to the plantation but it did not stop his education, only his formal schooling. However, Washington maintained a keen interest in learning and strongly supported education. He helped establish one of the first free schools in America, at Alexandria, Virginia. Also his will provided land to establish a national school for higher education, Washington and Lee University.

Washington was the only founding father to free his slaves.

At the age of 11 Washington inherited ten slaves from his father and probably never gave it a thought because, at that time, owning slaves was very common. However, it is clear from his papers that an attitude against slavery emerged as he grew older even though the number of slaves at Mt. Vernon increased to over 300. Perhaps it was those words in the Declaration of Independence, "...that all Men are created equal,.." or those in the Preamble of the Constitution, " order to form a more perfect union, establish justice,..." which made him think about slavery. Whatever it was, he became convinced of the immorality of slave ownership and his will freed his slaves and left funds to provide pensions for them.

He introduced the mule to America.

Washington was a multi-talented man. In addition to military, political, leadership, and administrative achievements, he was a pioneer of advanced agricultural concepts. He introduced terracing of lands on his plantations to reduce erosion, crop rotation to conserve soil viability, and cover crops to minimize top soil loss. He introduced the first mules in the 1780's and they became the mainstay (workhorse?) of American farms until the tractor replaced them. Also, he made important architectual contributions through building features notable at Mt. Vernon, especially the open portico connecting the two main buildings. Prior to this open concept, colonnades such as this had a closed backside to restrict the view from the front to the backyard.

First to sign the Constitution.

Upon arrival as a delegate from Virginia he was chosen presiding officer of the Constitutional Convention. In that capacity he was first to sign and was designated to prepare the letter of transmittal for it's delivery to Congress.

Washington declined offer to be King.

Once the colonies had won independence, many of them -- including some Army officers -- believed that America needed a King and wanted Washington to take the job. Not only did he decline, he opposed the idea and, in 1783, prevented the officers from carrying out a planned military takeover. Later that year, Washington and his officers voluntarily resigned their military positions.

See: Presidents

John Adams

  • He was a leader for independence and a delegate to the First and Second Continental Congresses.

  • Served in France and Holland in diplomatic roles during the revolutionary war and helped negotiate the first treaty of Paris.

  • He was Minister to the Court of St. James from 1785 to 1788 and was then elected Vice-President under George Washington.

  • He served two terms as Vice-President and found it frustrating because he felt the role had little significance.

  • During his administration there were many skirmishes at sea between the United States and France even though Adams, at first, had favored France in her conflict with England. Adams sent a team of negotiators to France to confer about the problems but the French insisted on bribe money before receiving the diplomats. Adams was furious, recalled the diplomats, and reported the French conduct to congress. The incident became known as the XYX Affair and almost led to war with France.

  • In the campaign of 1800 with the Federalists divided and manipulated behind the scenes by Alexander Hamilton, the electoral votes resulted in a tie, throwing the contest into the House of Representatives. The matter was not settled until February, 1801 when Adams lost to Jefferson.

  • Adams died on July 4, 1826 at his farm in Quincy, Massachusetts, and his last words included "Jefferson survives." He was not aware that Jefferson had died a few hours earlier at Monticello.

See: Presidents

Thomas Jefferson

  • He inherited 5,000 acres of land from his father, a planter and surveyor.

  • He studied at the College of William and Mary and then read law.

  • As a "silent member" of the Congress known for his writing rather than his speaking abilities, Jefferson at age of 33 drafted the Declaration of Independence.

  • In 1785 he succeeded Benjamin Franklin as minister to France and then served as Secretary of State in President Washington's Cabinet until he resigned in 1793.

  • When two separate parties, the Federalists and Democratic-Republicans, began to form, Jefferson became leader of the Republicans who supported revolutionary cause in France and opposed Federalist policies promoting strong centralized Government rather than the rights of states.

  • He was an opponent of John Adams in the Presidential election of 1796, but as a result of a constitutional flaw, he ended up serving as Adams' Vice President by coming within three votes of election.

  • In 1801 Jefferson took the oath of President after Republican electors had cast a tie vote between Jefferson and Aaron Burr which was eventually settled in Jefferson's favour by the House of Representatives. This was the election of 1800 but the HOR vote was cast in 1801.

  • In 1803 Jefferson acquired the Louisiana Territory from Napoleon.

  • In his second term Jefferson focused on keeping the Nation out of the Napoleonic wars with such efforts as imposing an unpopular embargo on American shipping.

  • During his retirement at Monticello, his mountaintop home near Charlottesville, he stayed busy with projects such as his designs for the University of Virginia.

  • He died on July 4, 1826 just a few hours before the death of John Adams.

See: Presidents

James Madison

  • Madison was born in 1751 and raised in Orange County, Virginia.

  • He studied history and government at Princeton and was well-read in law.

  • He served in Continental Congress, was leader of the Virginia Assembly and participated in framing the Virginia Constitution in 1776.

  • He played a significant role in ratification of the Constitution by writing the Federalist essays with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay.

  • He helped draft the Bill of Rights and enact the country's first revenue legislation.

  • Madison's opposition to Hamilton's financial proposals, which Madison felt would unduly help Northern financiers, led to the development of the Republican, or Jeffersonian, Party.

  • He served as Secretary of State in President Jefferson's administration.

  • He was elected President in 1808 despite Jefferson's unpopular Embargo Act of 1807.

  • After prohibiting trade with both Britain and France in the first year of Madison's administration, Congress authorized trade with both, directing the President that if either accepted America's view of neutral rights, he should prohibit trade with the other. In 1810 Napoleon purported to comply and Madison therefore, implemented the no-trade provision against Great Britain.

  • By July 1, 1812, pressure from Congress for a more militant policy, coupled with British capture of American seamen and seizure of cargos, led Madison to ask Congress for a declaration of war.

  • After the British set fire to the White House and Capitol, a few notable victories such as Andrew Jackson's triumph at New Orleans convinced Americans that the War of 1812 had been a great success.

  • Federalism disappeared as a national party because of New England Federalists' opposition to war.

See: Presidents

James Monroe

  • Studied at the College of William and Mary, fought with distinction in Continental Army and practiced law in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

  • Joined anti-Federalists in the Virginia Convention which ratified the Constitution and as an advocate of Jeffersonian policies was elected United States Senator in 1790.

  • As Minister to France (1794-1796) and later with Robert R. Livingston, he helped negotiate the Louisiana Purchase.

  • Members of Monroe's Cabinet included a southerner, John C. Calhoun as Secretary of War and a northerner, John Quincy Adams, as Secretary of State.

  • The Missouri Territory's application for admission to the Union as a slave state failed in 1819.

  • Passage of the Missouri Compromise barred slavery north and west of Missouri and permitted pairing Missouri as a slave state with the free state of Maine.

  • In foreign affairs, Monroe proclaimed that Spain would not be allowed to win back former Latin American colonies and that Russia would not be allowed to encroach southward on the Pacific coast. By 1831, twenty years after his death, this policy became known as the Monroe Doctrine.

See: Presidents

John Quincy Adams

  • Graduated from Harvard College and, at age 26, was appointed Minister to the Netherlands followed by a promotion to the Berlin Legation.

  • He was elected to the United States Senate in 1802 and six years later appointed Minister to Russia by President Madison.

  • Regarded as one of America's great Secretaries of State under President Monroe, Adams arranged with England for the joint occupation of the Oregon territory, obtained from Spain the cession of the Floridas and, worked with President Monroe to developed the Monroe Doctrine.

  • In 1824 the different divisions within the Republican Party each put forth its own nominee for President. When John Quincy Adams, candidate of the North, General Andrew Jackson, William H. Crawford and Henry Clay all failed to obtain a majority of electoral votes, the election was decided from the top three by the House of Representatives and with Clay's support, Adams became President.

  • As President, Adams initiated a significant national program to bring the country together with a network of highways and canals. In 1828, ground was broken for the 185 mile C & O Canal.

  • After being defeated by Andrew Jackson in the campaign of 1828, Adams returned to Massachusetts but in 1830 was unexpectedly returned to Washington when the Plymouth district elected him to the House of Representatives. There he served for more than eighteen years becoming a powerful leader for civil liberties.

  • He died in 1848 after collapsing from a stroke on the floor of the House.

See: Presidents

Andrew Jackson

  • Born 1767 in a backwoods settlement near Waxhaw, North Carolina or in a backwoods settlement near Waxhaw, South Carolina. A verbal war rages over the question of which side of the North - South Carolina border can claim his birthplace. Each state maintains a shrine, only a couple of miles apart, which each claim is the true birthplace.

  • Jackson read law for two years in his late teens and became an outstanding young lawyer in Tennessee.

  • Fiercely jealous of his honor, Jackson killed a man in a duel who had insulted his wife Rachel. Rachel lived in the Kentucky territory with her first husband but after a short time realized the arrangement could not last. Her husband assured her that he would obtain the divorce and she left for Tennessee where she met and married Jackson. A few years later they learned that the divorce had not taken place and in fact, her first husband then sued using adultry as his complaint. The divorce was granted and the Jackson's had a second wedding. The scandal was the basis of gossip for the rest of their lives.

  • The first man from Tennessee to be elected to the House of Representatives.

  • He served briefly in US Senate on two separate occasions; 1797-98 and 1823-25.

  • A Major General in War of 1812, he became a national hero by defeating the British at New Orleans.

  • During his Presidency, two parties grew out of the old Republican party. The Democratic Republicans, or Democrats, who supported Jackson, and the National Republicans, or Whigs, who opposed him.

  • Jackson's Whig opponents, Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, resented Jackson's use of the veto and assertion of Presidential powers rather than allowing Congressional participation in policy decisions.

  • Jackson won his greatest party battle when he vetoed a bill to recharter the Second Bank of the United States, which he felt enjoyed undue economic privilege.

  • Jackson demostrated his public support in 1832 when he received more than 56 percent of the popular vote and five times as many electoral votes as Henry Clay, who had led the fight to recharter the Second Bank.

  • When South Carolina, under leadership of John C. Calhoun, attempted to eliminate protective federal tariffs, Jackson ordered armed forces to Charleston and privately threatened to hang Calhoun. A battle was avoided when Henry Clay negotiated a compromise of lower tariffs.

  • Jackson retired to the Hermitage, near Nashville, Tennessee, where he died in June 1845.

See: Presidents

Martin Van Buren

  • Van Buren's father, a Dutch descendant, was a tavern keeper and farmer.

  • Prior to his election to the US Senate in 1821, Van Buren was leader of a New York political organization --- the "Albany Regency."

  • He served as Andrew Jackson's Secretary of State and was one of Jackson's most trusted advisors. While in this post, he and Secretary of War, Eaton, resigned in an attempt to force the resignations of other Cabinet members who were loyal to Jackson rival and Vice President, John C. Calhoun. Later, Jackson tried to reward Van Buren by appointing him Minister to Great Britain but Calhoun, in his capacity as President of the Senate, broke a tie and cast the deciding vote against the appointment.

  • In 1832 Van Buren became Vice President for Jackson's second term and in 1836 he won the Presidency.

  • Van Buren's term was shattered by the panic of 1837, which began a five year depression, the worst the United States had experienced.

  • Van Buren eliminated government spending on internal improvements and continued Jackson's deflationary policies which prolonged and worsened the depression.

  • He blocked annexation of Texas to prevent expansion of slavery and the possibility of war with Mexico.

  • In 1840 the Whigs defeated his re-election bid. In 1848 he tried again on the Free Soil ticket but was unsuccessful.

See: Presidents

William Henry Harrison

  • Born in 1773 at Berkeley, Virginia, Harrison studied classics and history at Hampden-Sydney College and medicine in Richmond.

  • In 1791, he obtained a commission as ensign in the First Infantry of the Regular Army and headed Northwest.

  • He served as aide-de-camp to General "Mad Anthony" Wayne in the campaign against the Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, which opened most of Ohio area to settlement. He became Secretary of Northwest Territory after resigning from the Army in 1798 and as the Northwest Territory's first delegate to Congress helped establish legislation dividing the Territory into the Northwest and Indiana Territories.

  • In 1801 he became Governor of the Indiana Territory and served for 12 years. As Governor, his primary responsibility was to obtain title to Indian lands, to permit further settlement, and to defend settlements against Indian attacks.

  • In 1809, the Indian Chief Tecumseh and his brother, the Prophet, joined a confederation to prevent further expansion of settlements.

  • Harrison became famous when he repulsed an Indian attack on his camp in 1811 near the Tippecanoe River. It was a bitter victory because 190 of Harrison's men were killed and wounded.

  • Harrison was a brigadier general during the War of 1812. At the Battle of Thames on October 5, 1813, he defeated a combined British and Indian force and Tecumseh was killed. The Indians never again offered serious resistance in the Northwest Territory.

  • In need of a national hero for the 1840 election the Whigs nominated Harrison for President.

  • To allow a balanced ticket the Whigs tacitly supported John Tyler of Virginia, a strong states rights advocate, for Vice President. Their opponents, seeing the balancing strategy, coined the derisive phrase "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" for use in the campaign against Harrison.

  • Harrison swept the Electoral College, 234 to 60.

  • In office less than a month, Harrison caught a cold which developed into pneumonia. On April 4, 1841, he became the first President to die in office.

See: Presidents

John Tyler

See: Presidents

James K. Polk

  • Born 1795 in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina, he graduated with honors in 1818 from the University of North Carolina and worked as a lawyer.

  • Served in the Tennessee legislature and the US House of Representatives where he was one of Andrew Jackson's key supporters.

  • Polk was Speaker of the House from 1835 to 1839 and Governor of Tennessee, 1839-1841.

  • An advocate of Texas being annexed and Oregon re-occupied, Polk, with Jackson's support, became Democratic candidate for President in 1844.

  • As President, Polk avoided war with Great Britain over the Oregon dispute by reaching a treaty in 1846 which established the western Canadian-US boundry, generally along the 49th parallel.

  • In an attempt to acquire California he sent an envoy to offer Mexico up to $20 million plus settlement of damage claims in return for California and the New Mexico territories. The envoy was not received. Polk sent General Zachary Taylor to the disputed area along the Rio Grande which provoked an attack from Mexican troops. Congress declared war. After repeated American victories, Mexico, in 1848, ceded New Mexico and California in return for $15 million and assumption by the United States of damage claims owed to Americans.

  • Polk's addition of substantial new lands to the United States triggered a bitter quarrel between North and South over the expansion of slavery.

  • Polk left office in poor condition from hard work and died in 1849.

See: Presidents

Zachary Taylor

  • Born 1784 in Virginia and raised on a plantation in Kentucky.

  • A career officer in the Army, he made his home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and he owned a plantation in Mississippi.

  • He had won major victories in the Mexican War at Monterrey and Buena Vista and his 40 years in the Army made him a strong nationalist who did not defend slavery nor southern sectionalism.

  • Whigs nominated "Old Rough and Ready," because his military record appealled to northeners and his ownership of 100 slaves was attractive to southerners.

  • Taylor ran against Democrat Lewis Cass who favored letting the territories decide the slavery issue for themselves.

  • Northeners formed the "Free Soil Party" in opposition to the extension of slavery in the territories and nominated Martin van Buren who siphoned enough votes from Cass to elect Taylor.

  • By urging settlers in New Mexico and California to bypass the territorial stage, draft constitutions and apply for statehood, Taylor enraged southerners since acceptable state constitutions were unlikely to allow slavery.

  • Meanwhile, Congress felt Taylor was usurping it's policy-making authority; the north was dissatisfied because of the continued operation of the slave market in the District of Columbia; and southerners demanded a tougher fugitive slave law.

  • In 1850, at a conference with southern leaders who threatened secession, Taylor promised to personally lead the Army against secessionist and hang them. Unexpectedly, after attending July 4th ceremonies at the Washington Monument, he fell ill and five days later he died.

  • A compromise was reached after his death but ironically, just 11 years later his only son Richard, began service in the Confederate Army and rose to General.

See: Presidents

Millard Fillmore

  • Born 1800 in the Finger Lakes country of New York.

  • He studied at one-room schools, worked on his father's farm and, at fifteen, was a cloth dressers' apprentice.

  • He was admitted to bar in 1823 and seven years later moved his practice to Buffalo.

  • He held state office and served eight years in the US House of Representatives.

  • He was elected Vice-President in 1848 while serving as Comptroller of New York.

  • He presided over Senate debates which reached the Compromise of 1850 and became President following the death of President Taylor.

  • The Cabinet of Taylor resigned and Fillmore proclaimed his alliance with moderate Whigs who favored Compromise. He immediately appointed Daniel Webster Secretary of State.

  • Upon the departure of Henry Clay, Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois assumed the leadership role and together with Fillmore advanced the compromise plan by presenting five bills to the Senate:
    1. Admitting California as a free state.
    2. Settling the Texas boundary and compensating Texas.
    3. Granting New Mexico territorial status.
    4. Placing Federal officers at the disposal of slaveholders seeking fugitives.
    5. Abolishing the slave trade in the District of Columbia.

  • Fillmore signed the bills into law on September 20, 1850.

  • Though he intended to the settle slavery controversy, the Compromise of 1850 merely fostered an uneasy sectional truce.

  • Fillmore was deprived of the Presidential nomination in 1852 by northern Whigs who refused to forgive him for having signed the law providing Federal assistance to slaveholders.

  • During the 1850's the Whig Party fell apart but Fillmore refused to join the Republicans. Instead, in 1856 he accepted the nomination of the American or "Know Nothing" Party but could not win back the Presidency.

  • Fillmore opposed Lincoln throughout the Civil War and supported President Johnson during reconstruction. He died in 1874.

See: Presidents

Franklin Pierce

  • Born 1804 in Hillsborough, New Hampshire.

  • Studied law after graduating from Bowdoin College and at age 24 was elected to the New Hampshire legislature, where he became Speaker two years later.

  • During the 1830's he served as US Representative and Senator.

  • Served in the army during the Mexican War.

  • Received the Democratic Presidential nomination in 1852 after all well-known candidates had been eliminated.

  • The Democrat's strong support of the Compromise of 1850, and concerns in the South about Whig candidate General Winfield Scott, led Pierce to a narrow victory.

  • To secure a railroad route, Pierce sent James Gadsden to Mexico to make a $10 million purchase of lands now comprising southern Arizona and part of southern New Mexico.

  • When Pierce pressured Great Britain to give up its special interests along the Central American coast and urged Spain to sell Cuba, he angered northeners who accused him of appeasing Southerners eager to extend slavery through expansion.

  • More serious turmoil erupted when Senator Stephen Douglas, out of interest in promoting a railroad from Chicago to California through Nebraska, led passage of the Kansas-Nebraska act, which repealed the Missouri Compromise and re-opened the slavery issue in the West.

  • Senator Douglas wished to organize the western territories, through which the railroad would run and when he provided in his bills that residents of new territories could decide the slavery question for themselves, violence broke out in Kansas as southerners and northeners vied for control of territory.

  • Although calm had been restored in Kansas by the end of Pierce's administration, Democrats refused to renominate him, preferring instead the less controversial Buchanan.

  • Pierce returned to New Hampshire and died in 1869.

See: Presidents

James Buchanan

  • Born in 1791 into an affluent Pennsylvania family. Graduated Dickinson College; became a lawyer.

  • Elected five terms to US House of Representatives; served as Minister to Russia; 10 years as US Senator.

  • Received Democratic nomination in 1856 after serving as Polk's Secretary of State and Pierce's Minister to Great Britain.

  • As President, Buchanan sought to resolve north-south conflict by maintaining sectional balance in his appointments and persuading people to accept as law interpretations of the Supreme Court, which was considering the legality of restricting slavery in the territories.

  • Shortly after Buchanan's inauguration, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney delivered the Dred Scott decision which delighted southerners and enraged northerners. The decision held that Congress had no Constitutional power to deny persons their property rights within the territories.

  • The federal Government reached a stalemate in 1858 after Republicans won a plurality in the House and every significant bill was defeated by southern votes in the Senate or by Presidential veto.

  • By 1860 sectional disputes caused the Democratic Party to split into northern and southern wings, each with its own candidate for President. This meant that the Republican's nominee, Abraham Lincoln, would be elected even though his name was not on southern ballots.

  • Southern "fire-eaters" advocated secession rather than accept a Republican administration and though Buchanan denied the legal right of states to secede, he acknowledged that the Federal Government could not legally prevent secession.

  • Buchanan realized his hopes for compromise were hopeless so he filled all Cabinet vacancies with northeners and sent the Star of the West to Fort Sumter with reinforcements.

  • He left office in March, 1861 and retired to Pennsylvania, where he died 7 years later.

See: Presidents

Abraham Lincoln

See: Presidents

Andrew Johnson

See: Presidents

Ulysses S. Grant

  • Born in 1822 in Ohio, Grant went to West Point against his will and graduated in the middle of his class. He later fought in the Mexican War under General Zachary Taylor.

  • He was working in his father's leather store in Galena, Illinois when the Civil War started and was appointed by the Governor to command an unruly volunteer regiment. By September, 1861, he had whipped the unit into shape become brigadier general of volunteers.

  • As a result of military victories at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson he was appointed major general of volunteers by President Lincoln.

  • After an unsuccessful and bloody battle at Shiloh, Grant won at Vicksburg, a key city on the Mississippi, cutting the Confederacy in two and breaking the Confederate hold on Chattanooga.

  • Lincoln appointed him General-in-Chief in March, 1864. Grant then directed General Sherman to drive through the South while he pinned down General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia.

  • When Lee surrendered on April 9, 1865 at Appomattox Court House, Grant provided generous terms of surrender which prevented trials for treason.

  • A symbol of Union victories of the Civil War, Grant was the logical candidate for President in 1868 and, when elected, brought many of his Army staff to the Whitehouse.

  • Although scrupulously honest, Grant was criticized for accepting presents from admirers and for allowing himself to be seen with Jay Gould and James Fisk, two speculators who plotted to corner the gold market. The scheme was undermined when Grant authorized the Secretary of Treasury to sell enough gold to wreck it.

  • In his campaign for re-election in 1872, Grant was attacked by Liberal Republican reformers but defended by the "Old Guard" of the Republican Party.

  • Though he assisted at times with military force, Grant allow Radical Reconstruction to run its course in the South.

  • Upon leaving the Presidency, Grant became a partner in a financial firm which went bankrupt. Soon afterwards he learned he had cancer of the throat.

  • To pay debts and provide for his family he wrote his memoirs. He died in 1885 shortly after completing the book.

  • The memoirs earned close to $450,000 and provided a comfortable existence for his widow Julia, until her death in 1902.

See: Presidents

Rutherford B. Hayes

  • Born in 1822 in Ohio, and educated at Kenyon College and Harvard Law School.

  • Hayes practiced law for five years in Lower Sandusky and then moved to Cincinnati, where he prospered as a young Whig lawyer.

  • He was wounded in the Civil War and had risen to the rank of brevet major general, was nominated by Cincinnati Republicans for the House of Representatives while he was still in the Army and, although he did not campaign, was elected by a substantial majority. Lincoln urged him to resign his commission and accept the election results.

  • He entered Congress in December, 1865 served one term, then between 1867 and 1876 served three terms as Governor of Ohio.

  • He became Republican candidate for President in 1876 opposing Governor Samuel J. Tilden of New York.

  • Though Tilden had the greater share of the popular vote, Hayes was elected by the electoral vote which was contested. After months of uncertainty a congressional Electoral Commission determined the final count in Hayes' favor: 185 to 184.

  • Many Republicans were angered when Hayes, insisting Cabinet appointments be based on merit and not political considerations, appointed an ex-Confederate and following that, appointed a man who had left the party in 1872 as a Liberal Republican.

  • Hayes promised protection of Negroe's rights and by withdrawing troops and advocating restoration of self-government in the South, Hayes hoped to gain support of the white businessmen and conservatives for his "new Republican party."

  • Leaders of the new South faced certain defeat if they joined Hayes' Republicans and, despite some support for Hayes' policies, he and his Republican supporters could not convert the southerners.

  • Announcing in advance that he would serve only one term, Hayes retired to his home in Fremont, Ohio in 1881 and died in 1893.

See: Presidents

James A. Garfield

  • Born 1831 in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, Garfield lost his father at age two and later drove canal boat teams to pay for education.

  • He graduated from Williams College in Massachusetts in 1856 and within a year of becoming classics professor at Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (later Hiram College) in Ohio, he became its president.

  • An advocate of forcing the seceding states back into Union during the secession crisis, Garfield had been elected to the Ohio Senate in 1859 as a Republican.

  • He led a brigade to a Union military victory against Confederate troops at Middle Creek, Kentucky in 1862 and became brigadier general at age 31, followed two years later by appointment to major general of volunteers.

  • In 1862 he was elected to Congress and, after being persuaded by President Lincoln to resign his commission, he served for 18 years, becoming the leading Republican in the House.

  • After failing to win a Presidential nomination for his friend John Sherman, Garfield himself became a nominee at the 1880 Republican Convention and in the general election defeated Democratic nominee, Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock, by 10,000 popular votes.

  • As President, Garfield strengthened Federal authority over the New York Customs House, stronghold of Senator Roscoe Conkling, by naming Conkling's arch rival to run the Customs House. This precipitated a Senate battle which Garfield won as the Senate confirmed his nominee.

  • On July 2, 1881, at a Washington railroad station Garfield was shot by an attorney who had sought a consular post.

  • Garfield lay in the White House for weeks as doctors tried to find the bullet using a metal detector invented by Alexander Graham Bell. No one realized that he was lying on a bed with metal springs which interfered with the detector and rendered it useless. The doctors never found the bullet.

  • He traveled to the New Jersey shore in an attempt to recover but on September 9, 1881, he died from infection and internal hemorrhage.

See: Presidents

Chester A. Arthur

  • Arthur was born in Fairfield, Vermont in 1829.

  • Graduated from Union College in 1848, taught school, was admitted to the bar and practiced law in New York City.

  • Served as Quartermaster General of the State of New York early in the Civil War.

  • In 1871, Arthur was appointed Collector of the Port of New York: he marshalled those employees on behalf of the Republican party.

  • Arthur promoted patronage at a time when there was a move by reformers to change the practice. For that he was ousted from his position by President Hayes in 1878.

  • He was nominated Vice President at the Republican Convention in 1880 where he continued his battle in favor of patronage.

  • When Arthur became President, however, he was eager to prove himself above party politics and championed civil service reform.

  • Congress passed the Pendleton Act in 1883, establishing a bipartisan Civil Service Commission which protected Federal employees from losing their jobs for political reasons.

  • Arthur tried to lower tariff rates, but Congress raised nearly as many taxes as it cut. Angry Westerners and Southerners turned to the Democrats for relief, making tariffs a major political issue between the two parties.

  • The first general Federal immigration law excluding paupers, criminals and lunatics was enacted during the Arthur administration, and Chinese immigration was suspended for ten years.

  • Arthur was not renominated for President in 1884 and he succumbed to kidney disease in 1886.

See: Presidents

Grover Cleveland

  • Cleveland was born in New Jersey in 1837, one of nine children of a Presbyterian minister, and was raised in upstate New York.

  • Cleveland practiced law in Buffalo.

  • He ran as a reformer and was elected Mayor of Buffalo in 1881, and later, Governor of New York.

  • He won the Presidency with the combined support of Democrats and reform Republicans, or "Mugwumps," who did not like his opponent's record.

  • Cleveland married 21-year-old Frances Folsom in 1886: he was the only President married in the White House. (Tyler's second wedding took place in New York City).

  • He opposed granting special favors to any economic group.

  • He vetoed many private pension bills to Civil War veterans whose claims were later proven to be fraudulent. He also vetoed a bill which would have seen pensions granted for disabilities not caused by military service.

  • Cleveland signed the Interstate Commerce Act, the first law which attempted Federal regulation of the railroads.

  • He was re-elected in 1892 at a time of economic depression, dealing directly with the Treasury crisis rather than with the more tangible evidence of economic decline – business failure and mortgage foreclosures. With the help of Wall Street, he maintained the Treasury's gold reserve.

  • He sent in Federal troops to quell a strike by railroad workers in Chicago, a move that was popular with many Americans, as was his forcing Great Britain to accept arbitration of a disputed boundary in Venezuela.

  • His policies during the depression of the early 1890's were generally unpopular and his party abandoned him to nominate William Jennings Bryan in 1896.

  • Cleveland retired to Princeton, New Jersey after his last term as President. He died in 1908.

See: Presidents

Benjamin Harrison

  • Harrison was born in 1833 on a farm by the Ohio River.

  • He attended Miami University in Ohio and read law in Cincinnati. Later, he moved to Indianapolis where he practiced law and campaigned for the Republican Party.

  • In 1853 he married Caroline Lavinia Scott. She died in 1892 while he was in office.

  • He was Colonel of the 70th Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War.

  • Harrison was defeated for Governor in 1876, but in the 1880s he served in the United States Senate where he championed Indians, homesteaders and Civil War veterans.

  • He pursued a vigorous foreign policy as president: the first Pan American Congress met in Washington in 1889 and later became the Pan American Union.

  • Harrison signed bills for internal improvements, naval expansion and subsidies for steamship lines.

  • He also signed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act into law.

  • On the home front, the tariff issue presented Harrison's greatest challenge: he tried to make the prohibitively high rates more acceptable by writing in free trade provisions.

  • The Republicans renominated Harrison in 1892, but he was defeated by Grover Cleveland.

  • Harrison returned to Indianapolis after he left office and in 1896 married the widowed Mrs. Mary Scott Lord Dimmick.

  • He died in 1901. His second wife died in 1948.

See: Presidents

William McKinley

  • Born in Niles, Ohio in 1843.

  • For a short time, McKinley attended Allegheny College, and taught at a country school. After the Civil War he studied law and opened an office in Canton, Ohio.

  • He enlisted as a private in the Union Army during the Civil War, and was mustered out at the end of the war as a brevet major of volunteers.

  • When he was 34, McKinley won a seat in Congress. During his 14 years in the House, he became the leading Republican tariff expert, giving his name to the measure enacted in 1890. The following year he was elected Governor of Ohio, serving two terms.

  • During McKinley's Presidency, industrial combinations grew as never before.

  • Foreign policy dominated his Presidency. He intervened in the stalemate between Spanish forces and revolutionaries in Cuba. In the 100-day war, the United States destroyed the Spanish fleet in a Cuban harbor, seized Manila in the Philippines and occupied Puerto Rico. Later the U.S. also annexed the Philippines, Guam and Puerto Rico.

  • In 1901 Mckinley was shot by a deranged anarchist as he stood in a receiving line at the Buffalo Pan American Exposition. He died eight days later.

See: Presidents

Theodore "Teddy" Roosevelt

  • Roosevelt was born in 1858 into a wealthy New York City family.

    At 23 he became the youngest member of the New York State Legislature.

  • In 1884, his first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee Roosevelt, died shortly after giving birth to their daughter, Alice Lee Roosevelt. His mother had died earlier the same day in the same house.

  • Despondent, Roosevelt went to the badlands of the Dakotas and spent nearly two years driving cattle, hunting, and becoming involved in saloon brawls. Once, after traveling many miles to a trading post for supplies, an outlaw on the run stole his canoe. Roosevelt tracked him down, recovered the canoe, and captured the outlaw.

  • Returning from the Dakotas in 1886 he renewed a relationship with childhood friend Edith Carow and they left for a trip abroad. They were married in London, England the same year. The next 11 years produced five children:

    • Theodore Roosevelt (1887-1944);
    • Kermit Roosevelt (1889-1943);
    • Ethel Carow Roosevelt (1891-1977);
    • Archibald Bulloch Roosevelt (1894-1979);
    • Quentin Roosevelt (1897-1918)

  • Roosevelt was lieutenant colonel of the Rough Rider Regiment during the Spanish-American War. He became a war hero by leading his regiment on a charge at the Battle of San Juan Hill in Cuba.

  • He became the Republican Governor of New York State in 1898 and was elected Vice President to William McKinley in 1900.

  • He became President in 1901 when McKinley was assassinated and began his work to guarantee equal economic justice to business and labor.

  • He forced the dissolution of a great railroad combination and as other antitrust suits followed, his reputation as "trust buster" grew.

  • He led the United States into world politics with the admonition, "speak softly and carry a big stick."

  • He ensured construction of the Panama Canal.

  • He won the Nobel Peace Prize for mediating the Russo-Japanese War, and reached an agreement on immigration with Japan.

  • He was a conservationist --- adding to the national forests, reserving lands for public use and fostering great irrigation projects.

  • He chose not to run in the election of 1908 and supported William H. Taft as his successor. Taft, a jurist with ambitions toward the Supreme Court rather than politics, was elected but his heart was never in the job. By the end of Taft's term Roosevelt had grown very critical of him.

  • Roosevelt decided to run again in 1912 but by then he had alienated many Republicans with his criticism of Taft and soon realized that he could not get the Party nomination. Joining other disgruntled Republicans who had formed the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party, he made an unsuccessful bid on that ticket.

  • While campaigning in Milwaukee he was shot twice in the chest by a fanatical assassin but proceeded to deliver a 90 minute speech before seeking medical assistance. He made a full recovery and in 1914 spent several months exploring the jungles of South America. He died five years later in 1919.

See: Presidents

William Howard Taft

  • Taft was born in 1857. His father was a judge.

  • He graduated from Yale and returned to Cincinnati to study and practice law.

  • He rose in politics through Republican judiciary appointments, but he liked law much more than politics. He wanted to be on the Supreme Court but his wife, Helen Herron Taft, had presidential ambitions for her husband.

  • Taft came to the White House via administrative assignments. He was chief civil administrator in the Philippines in 1900 where he improved the economy, built roads and schools and gave the people some participation in government.

  • President Roosevelt made him Secretary of War and by 1907 had decided that Taft should succeed him as President. The Republican Convention nominated him the next year.

  • Taft, unlike Roosevelt, did not believe in stretching presidential powers. He saw Taft's style as timidity and became publically critical of him.

  • By continuing high tariff rates he alienated many liberal Republicans who later formed the Progressive (Bull Moose) Party.

  • Despite the Progressive Party opposition to him, his administration had its successes, including the initiation of 80 antitrust suits.

  • A postal savings system was initiated during his Presidential tenure and the Interstate Commerce Commission was directed to set railroad rates.

  • He did not like the job of President and did not want to run for a second term but accepted the nomination at the insistence of the Republican Party. Years later he boasted that he could hardly remember the experience of the White House.

  • Following his Presidency, Taft served as a law professor at Yale until he was appointed Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, a position he held until just before his death in 1930.

See: Presidents

Woodrow Wilson

  • Wilson was born in Virginia in 1856, the son of a Presbyterian minister.

  • After graduation from Princeton and the University of Virginia Law School, Wilson earned his doctorate at Johns Hopkins University and then began an academic career. He became president of Princeton in 1902.

  • He married Ellen Louise Axson in 1885.

  • He was elected Governor of New Jersey in 1910; during his tenure he pursued a progressive platform.

  • At the 1912 Democratic Convention, he campaigned on a program called the New Freedom which emphasized individualism and states' rights.

  • As President, he was responsible for three major pieces of legislation: the Underwood Act, to which was added a graduated Federal income tax; the Federal Reserve Act, which provided a more elastic money supply, and; in 1914, antitrust legislation which established the Federal Trade Commission.

  • In 1916 more legislation followed: One new law prohibited child labor, another limited railroad workers to an eight-hour day.

  • Wilson tried to remain neutral during World War I, but could not, and in April, 1917, the U.S. declared war on Germany. The U.S. entry tipped the scales in favor of the Allies.

  • Following the war, Wilson exhausted himself touring the country to win support for the Versailles Treaty. During the tour he suffered a stroke. The election of 1918 had seen a shift in the balance of power to the Republicans, and the treaty failed in the Senate.

  • Nursed by his second wife, Edith Bolling Galt, Wilson lived until 1924.

See: Presidents

Warren G. Harding

  • Born near Marion, Ohio, in 1865, Harding became a newspaper publisher.

  • He married a divorcee, Mrs. Florence Kling DeWolfe.

  • He served in the Ohio State Senate, as Lieutenant Governor, and as Governor. In 1914, he was elected to the U.S. Senate.

  • Harding won the Presidential election of 1921 with a landslide of 60 percent.

  • A Democrat, William Gibbs McAdoo, called Harding's speeches "an army of pompous phrases moving across the landscape in search of an idea." Their vague nature was effective as listeners could not discern Harding's intentions regarding membership in the League of Nations. Many powerful Republicans assured voters that a vote for Harding was a vote for the League, but Harding took the vote as a mandate to stay out.

  • As President, Harding eliminated wartime controls and slashed taxes, established a Federal budget system, restored a high protective tariff, and imposed tight limitations on immigration.

  • Harding basked in the glow of his country's prosperity after the war, but all was not well behind the scenes of his administration. Harding discovered that some of his friends were using their government positions for personal profit. The President was depressed by the knowledge, but feared political repercussions if he blew the whistle and refused to take Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover's advice to expose them.

  • Harding died of a heart attack in San Francisco in 1923.

See: Presidents

Calvin Coolidge

  • Born in Plymouth Notch, Vermont in 1872, Coolidge was the son of a storekeeper.

  • He graduated with honors from Amherst College and became a lawyer.

  • He entered politics as a conservative Republican in Northampton, Massachusetts, progressing from councilman to Governor of Massachusetts.

  • As President, Coolidge was determined to preserve the status quo, both morally and economically, adopting a governmental hands-off policy.

  • His foreign policy was isolationist, and he called upon Congress to back tax cuts and limit aid to farmers.

  • His ideas were popular --- in 1924 he polled more than 54 percent of the popular vote.

  • In the later years of his Presidency, he twice vetoed farm relief bills, and axed a plan to produce cheap Federal electric power on the Tennessee River.

  • New York Times columnist, Walter Lippman, described Coolidge's political genius as "a talent for doing nothing." In fact, Coolidge's strong states rights beliefs left him with little to do. He saw most of the problems as state responsibilities and believed that the federal government should stick strictly to those things spelled out in the Constitution.

  • Coolidge had a reputation for being laconic and remote. He was so famous for saying little that a White House dinner guest made a bet that she could get the President to say more than two words. She told the President of her wager. His reply --- "You lose."

  • He was also famous for his public deadpan expression but in fact there are hundreds of photos of him with a large and easy smile. Will Rogers once remarked that Coolidge was the funniest man he had ever met.

  • Additionally, Coolidge was very accessible, permitting himself to be decked out in Indian headdresses or the like for the benefit of photographers.

  • Coolidge chose not to seek another term telling associates that four more years would make him the longest serving President and he didn't think that was right. Had he been elected for another four years he would have died in office because death came in January, 1933.

See: Presidents

Hebert Clark Hoover

  • Born 1874 in an Iowa village, Hoover grew up in Oregon.

  • He graduated from Stanford University as a mining engineer and together with his wife, Lou Henry, went to China where, as an employee of a private corporation, Hoover was China's leading engineer.

  • Hoover was in China in 1900 during the Boxer Rebellion and once risked his life rescuing Chinese children.

  • When Germany declared war on France one week before Hoover celebrated his 40th birthday in London, the American Consul General asked his help with stranded tourists and Hoover's committee helped return 120,000 Americans to the United States in just six weeks.

  • When President Wilson appointed Hoover head of the Food Administration after the U.S. entered the war, Hoover cut consumption of foods needed overseas and avoided rationing at home while keeping the Allies fed.

  • As a member of the Supreme Economic Council and head of the American Relief Administration, Hoover organized shipments of food for starving millions in Central Europe after Armistice and extended aid to famine-stricken Russia in 1921.

  • He became the Republican Presidential nominee in 1928 after serving as Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Harding and Coolidge.

  • Within months of Hoover becoming President, the stock market crashed and depression hit the United States. Hoover announced he would keep the Federal budget balanced while cutting taxes and expanding public works spending.

  • In 1931 Hoover presented Congress with a program asking for the creation of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to provide additional aid for farmers facing foreclosure, aid business, effect banking reform, provide state loans for feeding unemployed, expand public works and improve governmental economy. Despite this program, repercussions from Europe deepened the economic crisis in United States and Hoover stated that while people must not suffer from hunger and cold, caring for them must primarily be a local and voluntary responsibility.

  • After being unfairly portrayed as a callous and cruel President by his opponents in Congress, Hoover became the scapegoat for the depression and was badly defeated in 1932.

  • Hoover became a strong critic of the New Deal in 1930s and in 1947 was appointed by President Truman to a commission to reorganize Executive Departments, followed by his appointment as Chairman of a similar commission by President Eisenhower in 1953.

  • Recommendations of both commissions chaired by Hoover proved very useful and before Hoover died at age of 90 in New York City on October 20, 1964, he made many other contributions through his numerous articles and books.

See: Presidents

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

  • Born at Hyde Park, New York in 1882, Roosevelt studied at Harvard University and Columbia Law School.

  • He married Eleanor Roosevelt on St. Patrick's Day, 1905.

  • A fifth cousin of Teddy Roosevelt, Democrat Franklin began his political career by winning election to the New York Senate in 1910.

  • He was appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy by President Wilson and was Democratic nominee for Vice President in 1920.

  • In 1921 at age 39 he was stricken with poliomyelitis, and began courageous fight to regain the use of his legs.

  • He made a dramatic appearance on crutches to nominate Alfred E. Smith at the 1924 Democratic Convention and, in 1928, Roosevelt was elected New York Governor.

  • Elected to the first of four terms as President in November 1932 during the depth of the Great Depression, he brought hope, stating in his Inaugural Address, "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

  • Thirteen million unemployed and most banks closed by March, 1932 and in his first "hundred days", Roosevelt proposed and Congress enacted the New Deal program to bring recovery to business and agriculture, and provide relief to unemployed and those in danger of losing farms and homes.

  • Though some economic recovery had occurred by 1935, businessmen and bankers were becoming opponents of the New Deal and in particular the process of taking the nation off the gold standard, allowing budget deficits and providing concessions to labor.

  • Roosevelt, though, responded with a new reform program comprised of Social Security, additional taxes on the rich, new controls over banks and public utilities and a massive work relief program for unemployed.

  • After re-election with a significant margin in 1936, Roosevelt was unsuccessful in his battle to establish legislation enlarging the Supreme Court, which had been invalidating important New Deal measures. Failing legislatively, he took a different tack and began "stacking" the Court with appointees who concurred with his political agenda. The result was an "active" Court which began to legislate from the bench and set precedents of reading into the Constitution the Courts preception of "original intent."

See: Presidents

Harry S Truman

  • Born in 1884 in Lamar, Missouri, Truman grew up in Independence and worked for 12 years as a prosperous, Missouri farmer.

  • Truman always insisted that the "S" in his name did not stand for another name but was, in fact, his middle name.

  • After serving as captain in Field Artillery during World War I, Truman married Elizabeth Virginia Wallace and opened a haberdashery in Kansas City.

  • Truman was elected judge of Jackson County Court (administrative position) in 1922 and entered the Senate in 1934 where during World War II he headed war committee investigating waste and corruption, saving as much as 15 billion dollars.

  • As Vice President under Roosevelt, Truman became President on April 12, 1945 upon Roosevelt's death and was suddenly thrust into wartime problems. When a plea to Japan to surrender was rejected, Truman ordered atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, after which the Japanese quickly surrendered.

  • Truman witnessed the signing of the charter of United Nations in June, 1945. In policy making, Truman had followed his predecessor until he presented his own 21-point program (known as the Fair Deal) to Congress proposing expansion of Social Security, a full-employment program, a permanent Fair Employment Practices Act, and public housing and slum clearance.

  • Truman provided his most effective leadership in foreign affairs as illustrated with emergence of the Truman Doctrine in 1947, when he asked Congress to aid Turkey and Greece when they were threatened by the Soviet Union and also with Marshall Plan, named for his Secretary of State, which stimulated tremendous economic recovery after war in Western Europe.

  • Truman was re-elected in 1948 as foreign turmoil and crises remained prevalent and in that same year Truman launched a massive airlift to supply Berliners when Russians had blockaded Western sectors of Berlin.

  • Truman also negotiated a military alliance to protect Western countries resulting in establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949.

  • When the North Korean Communist government attacked South Korea in 1950, Truman was prepared to take immediate action but kept the war a limited one to avoid provoking conflict with China or Russia.

  • Truman decided to retire to Independence rather than run again and on December 26, 1972, died at age 88.

See: Presidents

Dwight David Eisenhower

  • Born in 1890 in Texas and brought up in Abilene, Kansas, Eisenhower was the third of seven sons.

  • After graduating from West Point, Eisenhower was stationed in Texas as second lieutenant where he met his future wife, Mamie Geneva Doud.

  • He served under Generals John J. Pershing, Douglas MacArthur and Walter Krueger in his early Army career and was called to Washington for war plans assignment by General George C. Marshall after Pearl Harbor.

  • He was Commander of Allied Forces invading North Africa in November 1942 and Supreme Commander of troops invading France on D-Day, 1944.

  • He became President of Columbia University after the war, and then after assuming supreme command over new NATO forces in 1951, ran for Presidency as a Republican in 1952, winning an impressive victory with the popular slogan "I like Ike."

  • Eisenhower worked incessantly during his Presidency to ease Cold War tensions and, in 1953, obtained truce, bringing armed peace along the South Korean border.

  • In July, 1955 Eisenhower met with British, French and Russian leaders at Geneva regarding the threat facing the world by virtue of the development of hydrogen bombs by both Russia and United States.

  • Eisenhower's proposal that the United States and Russia exchange blueprints of each other's military establishments and arrange for aerial photographic surveillance of each other met with silence by Russians but their friendly approach at the meetings led to relaxation of tensions.

  • After a suffering heart attack in September, 1955 which he recovered from by February, 1956, Eisenhower was elected for a second term in November of that year.

  • Continuing most of the New Deal and Fair Deal programs and emphasizing a balanced budget, Eisenhower pursued a middle course in domestic policy.

  • Believing there could be no second class citizens in the country, Eisenhower sent troops into Little Rock, Arkansas to enforce Federal court orders regarding school desegregation and ordered full desegregation of the Armed Forces.

  • Eisenhower continued his Presidency's focus on maintaining world peace by developing an "atoms for peace" program, which lent American uranium to "have not" nations for peaceful purposes.

  • Eisenhower stressed the need for maintaining adequate military strength while pointing out the potential harm of continued military expenditures to the American way of life before leaving office in January, 1961 for his Gettysburg farm. He died eight years later on March 28, 1969.

See: Presidents

John F. Kennedy

  • Kennedy was born on May 29, 1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts and was of Irish descent.

  • After graduating from Harvard in 1940, Kennedy entered the Navy and in 1943, when his boat was sunk by a Japanese destroyer, Kennedy led survivors to safety despite his serious injuries.

  • He became a Democratic Congressman from the Boston area after war, followed by a move to the Senate in 1953 and in that same year married Jacqueline Bouvier.

  • He won a Pulitzer Prize in history for writing Profiles in Courage in 1955 while recuperating from a back operation.

  • After almost gaining the Democratic nomination for Vice President in 1956, Kennedy became a first-ballot nominee for President in 1960, defeating Republican candidate Richard M. Nixon by a slim margin of popular vote to become the youngest man and first Roman Catholic elected President.

  • The memorable quote, "Ask not what your country can do for you--ask what you can do for your country", was contained in Kennedy's Inaugural Address and, as President, he followed through on his campaign pledge to get America moving again by pursuing economic programs which launched the United States on its longest sustained expansion since World War II.

  • Kennedy was a strong civil rights supporter who called for new civil rights legislation and also envisioned culture and the arts playing a central role in American society.

  • Wishing America to be the first nation dedicated to the revolution of human rights, Kennedy brought American idealism to the aid of developing nations with the Alliance for Progress and Peace Corps.

  • Some of Kennedy's biggest challenges were posed by Communism. After Kennedy permitted Cuban exiles to attempt an overthrow of Fidel Castro, which ultimately failed, the Soviet Union renewed its campaign against Berlin, resulting in Kennedy increasing U.S. military strength and Moscow erecting the Berlin Wall.

  • When Russians then wished to place nuclear missiles in Cuba and Kennedy restricted them from doing so, the world was on the brink of nuclear war until Russians backed down.

  • After the Cuban crisis, much progress was made toward the goal of world peace and Kennedy's appeals to stop the spread of nuclear weapons led to the test ban treaty of 1963.

  • Kennedy was murdered by an assassin's bullets on November 22, 1963 as his motorcade wound through Dallas, Texas, making him the youngest President to die in office.

See: Presidents

Lyndon B. Johnson

  • Born in central Texas near Johnson City on August 27, 1908, Johnson worked his way through the Southwest Texas State Teachers College.

  • With the assistance of his wife, the former Claudia "Lady Bird" Taylor, Johnson was elected to the House of Representatives on a New Deal platform in 1937.

  • He served for a short time as lieutenant commander in the Navy during World War II and was then elected to the Senate in 1948, where he became the youngest Minority Leader in Senate history in 1953 and Majority Leader in 1954 when the Democrats won control.

  • He was elected Vice President in 1960 as John F. Kennedy's running mate and sworn in as President on November 22, 1963 after Kennedy's assassination. As President, Johnson followed through on President Kennedy's policy initiatives, obtaining enactment of a new civil rights bill and a tax cut.

  • With the widest popular margin in American history, Johnson won the Presidency with 61 percent of vote in 1964 and then proceeded with a series of measures in furtherance of his vision of "A Great Society" for the American people and their fellow men.

  • In January, 1965, Congress enacted recommendations of Johnson's Great Society program which consisted of: aid to education, attack on disease, Medicare, urban renewal, beautification, conservation, development of depressed regions, a battle against poverty, prevention and control of crime and delinquency, and removal of impediments to the right to vote.

  • The space program, which Johnson had championed since its inception, made great advances during his Presidency and in 1968 three astronauts successfully orbited the moon.

  • One of two crises faced by Johnson was turmoil and rioting in black ghettos, which occurred despite the creation of new anti-poverty and anti-discrimination programs as well as Johnson's opposition to segregation.

  • The other major crisis faced by Johnson was tremendous controversy over Viet Nam war, a battle he carried on to restrain the spread of communism and which continued despite his efforts to achieve a settlement.

  • In 1968, Johnson shocked the world by withdrawing as a candidate for re-election to devote himself to the quest for peace, and though peace talks were underway when he left office, he died at his Texas ranch on January 22, 1973 before they were completed.

See: Presidents

Richard M. Nixon

  • Born 1913 in California, Nixon was brilliant student at Whittier College and Duke University Law School.

  • Married in 1940 and together with wife, Patricia Ryan, had two daughters, Patricia and Julie.

  • Served as Navy lieutenant commander in pacific during World War II and after leaving service elected to Congress from his California district before moving to Senate in 1950.

  • At age 39, Nixon became General Eisenhower's running mate in 1952 and after taking on major duties in Eisenhower Administration, Nixon was Republican Presidential nominee in 1960, losing to John F. Kennedy by narrow margin.

  • As Republican President nominee again in 1968, Nixon defeated Vice President Hubert H.Humphrey and George C. Wallace, a third-party candidate.

  • While in office, Nixon's accomplishments in domestic matters included an end to draft, revenue sharing, new anticrime laws, a broad environmental program and the appointment to Supreme Court of Justices of conservative philosophy. Many of Nixon's greatest accomplishments came in his quest for world peace including:

    1. Reduction of tensions with China and U.S.S.R. at 1972 summit meetings producing treaty to limit strategic nuclear weapons in case of U.S.S.R.;

    2. An accord in 1973 with North Viet Nam to end American involvement in Indochina; and

    3. Disengagement agreements between Israel and its opponents, Egypt and Syria, in 1974, negotiated by Nixon's Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger.

  • After defeating Democratic candidate George McGovern by landslide victory in 1972 Presidential race, Nixon's Administration was only months later embroiled in "Watergate" scandal stemming from 1972 campaign break-in at Democratic National Committee offices.

  • Watergate break-in traced to Committee to Re-elect the President and though several administration officials resigned, some of whom were later convicted of offenses relating to attempts to cover up the affair, Nixon denied any personal involvement but was contradicted by tape recordings courts compelled him to provide which established Nixon had tried to divert investigation.

  • Spiro T. Agnew, Nixon's Vice President, resigned in 1973 as a result of unrelated scandals an was replaced by Gerald R. Ford, House Minority Leader.

  • Nixon was faced with almost certain impeachment when he announced on August 8, 1974 that he would resign the following day to enable "process of healing" to begin.

  • Nixon praised as elder statesman in final years and had written many books of public..... his death on April 22, 1994.

See: Presidents

Gerald R. Ford

  • Born in 1913 in Omaha, Nebraska and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Ford was a star on the University of Michigan football team before studying law at Yale while also serving as assistant coach.

  • Ford was lieutenant commander in the navy during World War II and after the war he practiced law in Grand Rapids before his election to Congress as a Republican in 1948, a few weeks after his marriage to Elizabeth Bloomer, with whom he had four children.

  • Ford served in Congress for 25 years and was House Minority Leader from 1965 until 1973 when he was selected by President Nixon to replace Spiro Agnew, becoming the first Vice President chosen under terms of the Twenty-fifth Amendment. When Ford became President on August 9, 1974 after the Watergate scandal, he succeeded the first President ever to resign.

  • Ford, who granted Nixon a full pardon, nominated Nelson Rockefeller, former Governor of New York, as his Vice President and over time appointed his own cabinet.

  • Regarding himself as a moderate in domestic affairs and as a conservative in fiscal affairs who wanted to help business through lower taxes and reduced bureaucratic restrictions, Ford tried to curb the trend toward Government intervention and spending as solutions to America's problems and despite opposition from a democratic Congress, he established his policies during his first year in office.

  • Though Ford's first challenge was conquering inflation, he shifted to measures to revive the economy when recession became the most serious domestic problem of U.S.

  • Despite recession, Ford's continuing fear of inflation caused him to veto several non-military appropriation bills that would have increased the already substantial budgetary deficit. In total, Ford vetoed 39 measures during his first 14 months as President.

  • Ford strived to maintain his Nation's dominance and importance in foreign affairs after the collapse of Cambodia and South Viet Nam. Through aid to both Israel and Egypt, his Administration helped orchestrate acceptance of an interim truce agreement by these two countries in keeping with Ford's objective of preventing new war in Middle East.

  • Together with Soviet leader Leonid I. Brezhnev, Ford established new nuclear weapon restrictions as détente with Soviet Union continued.

  • After winning the Republican nomination for President in 1976, Ford lost the election to former Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter, who began his inaugural address by thanking Ford for all he had done to "heal our land".

See: Presidents

James Earl "Jimmy" Carter, Jr.

  • James Earl Carter, Jr. was born in Plains, Georgia on October 1, 1924 and raised in family where main interests were peanut farming, Baptist faith and politics.

  • Carter married Rosalynn Smith after graduating in 1946 from Naval Academy in Annapolis and together with Rosalynn had three sons and a daughter.

  • Returning to Plains after seven years' service as naval officer, Carter entered state politics in 1962 and elected Governor of Georgia in 1970, distinguishing himself among new young southern Governors by emphasizing governmental efficiency, ecology and removal of racial barriers.

  • Carter's two-year campaign for Presidency gained momentum from time he first announced his candidacy in December 1974 and after being elected on first ballot at Democratic Convention, he selected Senator Walter F. Mondale of Minnesota as his running mate.

  • After debating President Gerald R. Ford three times and campaigning vigourously, Carter won the election by 297 electoral votes to Ford's 241.

    In domestic affairs Carter's accomplishments included:

    1. National energy policy to deal with energy shortage and stimulation of production by decontrolling domestic petroleum prices;

    2. Civil service reform promoting government efficiency and deregulation of trucking and airline industries;

    3. Environment protection and expansion of national park system including protection of 103 million acres of Alaskan lands;

    4. Establishment of Department of Education to expand human and social services and also improvement of Social Security system; and

    5. Appointment of women, blacks and Hispanics to Government jobs in record numbers.

  • In economic matters Carter strived to fight continuing inflation and unemployment problems and though there was increase of close to 8 million jobs and decrease in budget deficit by end of his Administration, efforts to reduce record high inflation and interest rates triggered short recession.

  • Carter established his own style in foreign affairs and though Carter's promotion of human rights internationally not well received by some nations including Soviet Union, he helped bring peace between Egypt and Israel with Camp David agreement of 1978, obtained ratification of Panama Canal treaties, established full diplomatic relations with People's Republic of China and finalized SALT II nuclear limitation treaty with Soviet Union.

  • Carter, however, plagued by foreign affair problems such as Soviet invasion of Afghanistan which prevented ratification of SALT II treaty and continuation during last fourteen months of his Administration of Iran's hostage taking of U.S. Embassy staff.

  • Iran's hostage taking, which dominated news, combined with continuing inflationary and economic problems in U.S., led to defeat of Carter in 1980 election, but he nevertheless continued to negotiate for release of hostages and on same day that Carter left office, Iran released the fifty-two Americans.

  • Returning to Georgia after leaving White House, Carter founded non-profit Carter Center in Atlanta in 1982 to promote peace and human rights internationally and Center has been active in more than 65 countries resolving conflicts, preventing human rights abuses, building democracy, improving health and revitalizing urban areas.

  • Together with his wife, Rosalynn, Carter continues to reside in Plains, Georgia.

See: Presidents

Ronald Reagan

  • Ronald Reagan was born February 6, 1911 to Nelle and John Reagan in Tampico, Illinois.

  • He went to high school in Dixon, Illinois then on to Eureka College studying sociology and economics, while playing football and dabbling in acting. His first job after college was as radio sports announcer and in 1937 Reagan had a successful screen test that launched long (53 films) movie career.

  • After wartime service in the U.S. Navy, his first move toward politics saw Reagan as president of the prestigious Screen Actors Guild where he was involved in the then hot issue of Communism infiltration of the movie industry during which period his political views became conservative. As a maturing T.V. host speaking for conservatism, his interest in running for public office firmed up.

  • In 1966 he won the Governorship of California with a landslide majority of over a million votes and did such a strong job that in 1970 he was easily re-elected.

  • Then it was time for federal politics. In 1980 he took the Republican Presidential nomination and chose the multi-faceted George Bush as his running mate. Yet another voting sweep put the popular Ronald Reagan in the White House.

  • Sworn in as President on January 20, 1981, it was just over nine weeks later that he was felled by a would-be assassin's bullet. Recovering fully from his near-death episode he went on to substantial achievements in his first term.

  • His unique approach to increased government spending while cutting taxes was called "voodoo economics" by his critics. He achieved major expenditures for the strengthening of America's armed forces, a step he considered vital in his on-going confrontation with the leadership of the Soviet Union. Reagan's All-American-Hero approach as President led to a restoration of his nation's confidence.

  • Ronald Reagan, still with George Bush as his Vice-President, won his second term with a record number of electoral votes in 1984.

  • During his second term he persuaded Congress to pass a much revised income tax code that gave new exemptions to hundreds of thousands of low-income Americans. His two terms were devoid of recessions as the economic strength of America surged ahead.

  • One of Reagan's greatest accomplishments was to encourage his co-world leader, Mikhail Gorbachev to abandon totalitarian Communism and during Reagan's Presidency, dissolution of the Soviet Union occurred.

  • Reagan fired all U.S. air controllers and took scores of bold actions in the name of freedom and democracy including a direct air attack on Libya and the liberation of Grenada.

  • In face-to-face meetings with Gorbachev the two leaders negotiated an agreement that eliminated intermediate range nuclear missiles.

  • He established the Reagan Doctrine through which he aided anti-Communist factions in Africa, Asia and Central America.

  • President Reagan (recently afflicted by Alzheimer's Disease) and his wife Nancy continue to live in California.

See: Presidents

George Herbert Walker Bush

  • George Herbert Walker Bush was born in Milton, Massachusetts on June 12, 1924 to a family steeped in public service.

  • In his high school years he was a leader at Phillips Academy in Andover. On his 18th birthday he volunteered for the U.S. Navy soon becoming its youngest pilot.

  • Commissioned, he took part in 58 combat missions in the Pacific theater. Flying a torpedo bomber on a special mission he was shot down by Japanese anti-aircraft guns but was rescued by a U.S. submarine from the sea. Bush was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery in the face of the enemy.

  • Bush's immediate post-war focus was on education and his now wife Barbara Pierce whom he married in January, 1945 while he was still serving in the Navy. Their union produced six children: George (now Governor of Texas), Robin (deceased as a child), John (Jeb), Neil, Marvin and Dorothy.

  • A Yale University man, Bush is a Phi Beta Kappa and outstanding in sports and as a student.

  • His first business move was to the oil business in West Texas. He has remained a Texan every since.

  • His oil industry career flourishing, Bush was attracted to public service and politics. He was elected (2 terms) to Congress but the Senate twice eluded him.

  • Then it was on to high-land appointments: Ambassador to the U.N., Chairman of the National Republican Committee, Chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in the People's Republic of China and to the prestigious post of Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

  • In 1980 he went after the Republican Presidential nomination. Losing, he was chosen by Ronald Reagan as his running mate. The pair made an effective two-term team with Bush carrying responsibility on the areas of anti-drug and deregulation.

  • With Senator Dan Quayle as his running mate, Bush won the Republican Presidential nomination in 1988 and went on to defeat Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts, the Democrat contender.

  • During his four-year term, Bush confronted a major world event, the collapse of the Soviet Union which led to a time of international sensitivity as the United States emerged as the world's only super-power and democracy's principal policeman.

  • President Bush sent U.S. troops into Panama to seize General Manuel Noriega and overthrow his drug-corrupt regime that was threatening the security of the Panama Canal.

  • Bush's hardest test was the land battle of Operation Desert Storm when, as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces and leader of a large military Coalition he sent into Kuwait 425,000 U.S. troops along with another 118,000 from allied countries. The attack on Saddam Hussein and Iraq's one million man force was an enormous victory.

  • Like Churchill (a successful wartime leader defeated in the U.K. immediately at the close of the Second World War), George Bush, a popular fighting president, lost his 1992 bid for re-election. He then returned to the world of business.

See: Presidents

William Jefferson Clinton

  • Born William Jefferson Blythe, IV in Hope, Arkansas, on August 19, 1946, he took the name of his step-father, Roger Clinton of Hot Springs, Arkansas. His biological father had died earlier in an automobile accident.

  • As a high school student in Hot Springs, Clinton was a delegate to Boys Nation and at one event held at the White House he met then President John F. Kennedy. That meeting influenced Clinton's decision to pursue a political career.

  • He attended Georgetown University and ranked high in studies and saxophone. With BA in foreign service he won a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University in England. There he participated in anti-American rallies protesting the US roll in Vietnam and used contacts back in Arkansas and elsewhere to make sure his name was kept off the Selective Service list and avoid military service. After two years at Oxford he enrolled at Yale Law School where he met his future wife, Hillary Rodham. After graduation he taught law at the University of Arkansas and became active in Arkansas politics.

  • In 1974 he ran unsuccessfully for Congress in Arkansas' Third District. The following year he married his Yale sweetheart, lawyer Hillary Rodham. Their daughter Chelsea was born in 1980.

  • In 1976 Clinton was elected Attorney General of Arkansas and two years later successfully became Governor. He lost that post in the next election but was re-elected in 1986 and served until his run for the Presidency in 1992.

  • Clinton won the Presidential race defeating incumbent George Bush and the candidate of the third party, Texas billionaire, Ross Perot. Both Clinton and his running mate, a US Senator from Tennessee, Al Gore, were in their mid-40's.

  • With Congress and the White House in Democratic hands, President Clinton was positioned to take bold political initiatives. He was enjoying huge budgetary benefits during his first term due to:

    1. The recession was easying and the economy was making a dramatic recovery.

    2. The collapse of the Soviet Union and virtual end of the Cold War produced opportunities for massive cuts in military spending, from over $300 billion to near $260 billion annually.

    3. The nearly one trillion dollars of outlays to save the Savings and Loans industry had run its course and the appropriations to cover this drain on the budget were no longer necessary.

  • He immediately asked congress to approve $17 billion in new spending to stimulate the economy but the request was rejected because it was clear that the economy was already in recovery.

  • He asked congress for new taxes to help balance the budget and this was approved, the largest tax increase in U.S. history.

  • He pushed through legislation to greatly expand the Earned Income Credit for the working poor; a popular tax relief and assistance program initiated by President Reagan. He pushed through new spending for many social programs aimed at the poor and special groups.

  • He persuaded congress to fund many special programs such as a multi-billion dollar Crime Bill to allocate payments to selected cities and towns for hiring new police officers. Congress provided funds for 100,000 new officers but five years later fewer than 30,000 had been hired because the program only provided temporary funding and because of the onerous requirements placed on municipalities by the Federal Law Enforcement Administration. Most local governments prefer to maintain local control over their police departments.

  • He spearheaded the Family and Medical Leave Act; a law permitting leaves of absence from one's job to tend sick relatives or dependents without employer retaliation.

  • GOALS 2000 Act: A program for the teacher's union, the NEA, to implement federal Department of Education requirements of states to adhere to certain administrative and testing procedures in exchange for federal money targeted toward specific educational assistance.

  • He obtained legislation to authorize a multi-billion dollar loan from the International Monetary Fund to Russia. By 1998 the money had disappeared into the labyrinth of Russia's emerging corruption. In September, 1999 large sums (billions) of dollars from Russia have begun to appear in New York City banks but Russia and the Clinton administration have assured Americans that these are legitimate funds derived from regular business sources.

  • Toward the end of his first term the economy was in excellent shape but the budget deficit was still running rampant and Clinton was in political trouble with public approval at its lowest level since his inauguration. He hired a political consultant who advised him against continuing a strategy of trying to please everyone and to concentrate on middle of the road and special interest issues which would attract large voting groups. The approach worked and his poll numbers began to improve. The Republicans nominated Robert "Bob" Dole, Majority Leader of the Senate, an appeaser unable enunciate a vision for the future, to run against Clinton and it was a disaster for them.

  • Clinton and Gore won their second term in a landslide but control of Congress shifted to the Republicans.

  • Clinton's second term has been marred by a series of investigations carried out by Independent Prosecutor Ken Starr.

  • Starr has investigated several alleged improprieties including improprieties relating to Clinton's business dealings before he became President.

  • The only impropriety to date that has seriously harmed Clinton is a relationship he carried on with 21 year old White House intern, Monica Lewinsky.

  • Clinton originally denied the relationship and then subsequently confessed to it and apologized to the American public for misleading them.

  • Clinton now finds himself fending off various attacks and even calls for impeachment as a result of the Lewinsky scandal.

See: Presidents

George Walker Bush

  • George Walker Bush became the 43rd President of the United States on January 20, 2001. He was formerly the 46th Governor of the State of Texas. President Bush had earned a reputation as a compassionate conservative who shaped policy based on the principles of limited government, personal responsibility, strong families and local control.

  • President Bush was born July 6, 1946, and grew up in Midland and Houston, Texas. He received a bachelor's degree from Yale University and a Master of Business Administration from Harvard Business School.

  • He served as an F-102 pilot for the Texas Air National Guard before beginning his career in the oil and gas business in Midland in 1975, working in the energy industry until 1986.

  • After working on his father's successful 1988 presidential campaign, he assembled the group of partners that purchased the Texas Rangers baseball franchise in 1989. He served as managing general partner of the Texas Rangers until he was elected Governor on November 8, 1994, with 53.5 percent of the vote.

  • In an historic re-election victory, he became the first Texas Governor to be elected to consecutive four-year terms on November 3, 1998, winning 68.6 percent of the vote.

  • Entering the Presidency, Bush announced his primary goals were:

    • Improvement of public schools through better accountability; i.e., standard testing throughout the system; local control; and increased funding.

    • Reducing taxes on all taxpayers, especially for those Americans on the fringes of poverty.

    • Strengthening the military with better pay, better planning, and better equipment.

    • Saving and strengthening Social Security and Medicare by providing seniors with more options.

  • President Bush is married to Laura Welch Bush, a former teacher and librarian, and they have twin daughters, Barbara and Jenna. The Bush family also includes their dogs, Spot and Barney, and a cat, India.

See: Presidents

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