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THE PRESIDENTS of the United States
Biographical Sketches

PRACTICALLY all the Presidents except Kennedy, a Roman Catholic, were Protestants or demonstrated Protestant leanings. Official affiliations were as follows: Episcopalian, 10 (Washington, Madison, Monroe, William Henry Harrison, Tyler, Taylor, Pierce, Arthur, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Ford); Presbyterian, six (Jackson, Buchanan, Cleveland, Benjamin Harrison, Wilson, and Eisenhower); Methodist, four (Polk, Andrew Johnson, Grant, and McKinley); Unitarian, four (the two Adamses, Fillmore, and Taft); Baptist, three (Harding, Truman, and Carter); Disciples of Christ (Christian Church), two (Garfield and Lyndon B. Johnson); Reformed Church, two (Van Buren and Theodore Roosevelt); Quaker (Friends), two (Hoover and Nixon); and Congregationalist, one (Coolidge).

Lincoln and Hayes were never officially affiliated with any denomination, though the former occasionally attended Presbyterian services and the latter regularly those of the Methodist Church. Jefferson, originally an Episcopalian, later declared himself a Deist and expressed interest in Unitarianism. And not all the other Chief Executives were strongly identified with their churches. Some favored more than one denomination during their lifetime, and many at one time or another worshipped with various faiths.

No Presidents were ministers, though Garfield was a lay preacher, and John Adams and Madison studied theology and at one time considered the profession. Arthur, Cleveland, and Wilson were sons of clergymen, and Hoover's mother was a Quaker lay minister.

Another striking similarity among the Chief Executives is that most of them assumed the position at a mature age, and a large number were long lived. The average age upon entering office was a little less than 55 years. Theodore Roosevelt, who took over from McKinley, was the youngest to serve, at 42; and Kennedy, at 43, the youngest elected. The oldest at inauguration was William Henry Harrison, 68; Eisenhower, at 70, the oldest upon retirement from office.

assassination of Garfield
The assassinations of four Presidents have shocked the country. Garfield was shot in 1881 at Washington's Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Station. (Lithograph, 1881, by W. T. Mathews, Library of Congress)

The average age at death was nearly 69, a remarkable figure considering the effect on the average of the four Presidents who were assassinated—Garfield and Kennedy in their forties, Lincoln at 56, and McKinley at 58. John Adams, who lived to be 90 years and 8 months old, was the longest lived; Hoover also reached 90. Of the 29 other deceased Chief Executives, four (Jefferson, Madison, John Quincy Adams, and Truman) died in their eighties; 10 passed away in their seventies; 12 in their sixties; and three others in their fifties.

Most of the Presidents were born in the Eastern States, 22 in the Thirteen Original States, and 32 of the 38 in the States east of the Mississippi. Reflecting the westward trend in our history, the 16th President, Lincoln, was the first born west of the Appalachians; Hoover, the 31st, the first born west of the Mississippi; and six of the last nine have been natives of States in the trans-Mississippi West. Nixon was the only one born in the Far West.

The bulk of the Chief Executives have been northerners by birth. Twenty-two were born in that region, versus 16 (including Lincoln and Truman, from the border states of Kentucky and Missouri, respectively) in the South. Nine of those who were southern-born (Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, William Henry Harrison, Tyler, Polk, and Taylor) came to office before the Civil War, only three in the long interim until World War II (Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, and Wilson), and four (Truman Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Carter) since that time.

By place of birth, the Presidents have represented 16 or 17 States, because both North and South Carolina claim Jackson. Virginia produced eight (Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, William Henry Harrison, Tyler, Taylor, and Wilson); Ohio, seven (Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, McKinley, Taft, and Harding); New York, four (Van Buren, Fillmore, and both Roosevelts); Massachusetts, three (the two Adamses and Kennedy); North Carolina, two (Polk and Andrew Johnson) and claims, as does South Carolina, Andrew Jackson; Texas (Eisenhower and Lyndon B. Johnson) and Vermont (Arthur and Coolidge), each two; and nine other States, one each (New Hampshire, Pierce; Pennsylvania, Buchanan; Kentucky, Lincoln; New Jersey, Cleveland; Iowa, Hoover; Missouri, Truman; California, Nixon; Nebraska, Ford; and Georgia, Carter).

Some 16 of the 38 Chief Executives have come to office from other than the States of their birth. Leading the States in which the Presidents resided when they were originally elected or inaugurated is New York, which furnished eight: Van Buren, Fillmore, Arthur, Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and Nixon; Ohio, six (William Henry Harrison, Hayes, Garfield, McKinley, Taft, and Harding); Virginia, five (Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Tyler); Massachusetts, four (both Adamses, Coolidge, and Kennedy); Tennessee, three (Jackson, Polk, and Andrew Johnson); Illinois, two (Lincoln and Grant); and ten other States, one each (Louisiana, Taylor; New Hampshire, Pierce; Pennsylvania, Buchanan; Indiana, Benjamin Harrison; New Jersey, Wilson; California, Hoover; Missouri, Truman; Texas, Lyndon B. Johnson; Michigan, Ford; and Georgia, Carter). Eisenhower and Nixon both changed their legal residences by the beginning of their second terms, from New York to Pennsylvania and California, respectively.

MOST Presidents remained associated with a certain political party from early in their careers until the ends of their lives, though a few changed their affiliations or did not make formal ones until shortly before their election. Some Chief Executives have championed the causes of their parties; others have often tried to subordinate partisan issues.

Washington disdained parties and dreaded their formation, though he seemed to favor the Federalists. Except for a few minor or short-term affiliations, the choices of his successors were as follows: Federalists, one (John Adams); Democratic-Republicans, four (Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and John Quincy Adams); Whigs, four (William Henry Harrison, Tyler, Taylor, and Fillmore); Democrats, 12 (Jackson, Van Buren, Polk, Pierce, Buchanan Cleveland, Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Carter); and Republicans, 15 (Lincoln, Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Benjamin Harrison, McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Taft, Harding, Coolidge, Hoover, Eisenhower, Nixon, and Ford).

Andrew Johnson, a former Democrat, ran on the National Union (Republican) ticket as Vice President and succeeded to the Presidency; his subsequent estrangement from the Republicans left him virtually without a party. Similarly, Tyler's ties to the Whigs frayed rapidly.

Jefferson and Madison founded the Democratic-Republican Party. The Whig Party grew out of it from John Quincy Adams' faction; the Democratic, from that of Jackson. The Republican Party, which drew most of its strength from Whigs and Free-Soil Democrats, was founded in 1854 primarily to oppose the extension of slavery.

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Last Updated: 22-Jan-2004