Presidential Book of Lists: From Most to Least, Elected to Rejected, Worst to Cursed-Fascinating Facts About Our Chief Executives

Presidential Book of Lists: From Most to Least, Elected to Rejected, Worst to Cursed-Fascinating Facts About Our Chief Executives

by Ian Randal Strock

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An entertaining and informative compendium of facts and trivia about the U.S. presidents ranges from George Washington to the results of the 2008 presidential election in a volume organized into more than one hundred different categories.


An entertaining and informative compendium of facts and trivia about the U.S. presidents ranges from George Washington to the results of the 2008 presidential election in a volume organized into more than one hundred different categories.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

There was a time when books with U.S. presidential facts were formatted chronologically by President, which allowed readers to render their own lists of trivial and less trivial information based on their own study. Next, these books started to offer some fun lists in the back ("Presidents resident of a state other than that of their birth," etc.). This book skips the President-by-President rendition altogether (aside from a desultory table up front) and simply supplies thematically arranged annotated lists. They're fun, but some buffs may prefer their presidential diet not to be predigested. Is it more enjoyable to discover yourself that one 20th-century President had no living predecesor when he took office-or to be told? For public libraries.

—Margaret Heilbrun

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Random House Publishing Group
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5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.70(d)

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The Five Presidents Who Lived Longest

1. Gerald Ford. Born on July 14, 1913, he overtook Ronald Reagan as the oldest President on November 12, 2006, and then died December 26, 2006. He was 93 years, 164 days old.

2. Ronald Reagan. Born on February 6, 1911, he was 93 years, 120 days old when he died on June 5, 2004. In October 2001 he eclipsed John Adams’s record, which had stood since 1826.

3. John Adams. Born on October 30, 1735, more than 40 years before the United States itself was born, our second President was the longest lived for almost two centuries. He took the title from George Washington in 1802, and held it until 2001. He died on July 4, 1826, aged 90 years, 247 days.

4. Herbert Hoover. Born on August 10, 1874, he lived 90 years, 71 days, and died on October 20, 1964, having been retired from the presidency for 31 years.

5. Harry Truman. Born May 8, 1884, he was 88 years, 232 days old when he died on December 26, 1972.

Only four Presidents have held the title of “longest lived”: George Washington (who, as the first President, held most of the titles first), John Adams, Ronald Reagan, and Gerald Ford.

George H.W. Bush won’t be able to knock Truman off this list until January 30, 2013 (he’ll take the title from Ford on November 24, 2017). Jimmy Carter is 111 days younger than GHWBush. George W. Bush will be 88 years, 232 days old on February 23, 2039. Bill Clinton is 41 days younger than his successor, GWBush.

The Five Presidents Who Died Youngest

1. John F. Kennedy. The youngest to be elected was also the youngest to die. He was assassinated in his third year in office, on November 22, 1963, at the age of 46 years, 177 days.

2. James A. Garfield. The second President to be assassinated, he was shot on July 2, 1881, but lingered another two months, before succumbing on September 19 at the age of 49 years, 304 days.

3. James K. Polk. The shortest-?lived President to not die in office, Polk served one term (1845–49) and then died three months after leaving office, on June 15, 1849, aged 53 years, 225 days.

4. Abraham Lincoln. The first to be assassinated, he was 56 years, 64 days old when he died on April 15, 1865, a day after John Wilkes Booth shot him.

5. Chester A. Arthur. He succeeded to the presidency upon Garfield’s death (see above), served out the term, and then died a year and a half after leaving office, on November 18, 1886, aged 57 years, 44 days.

All four living Presidents (Carter, both Bushes, and Clinton) are already ineligible for this list.

Splitting the list into those who died in office and those who died after retiring, we get:

The five Presidents who died the youngest while in office:

1. John F. Kennedy (see above).

2. James A. Garfield (see above).

3. Abraham Lincoln (see above).

4. Warren G. Harding. He died in office on August 2, 1923, aged 57 years, 273 days.

5. William McKinley. Shot September 6, 1901, died Septem-ber 14, aged 58 years, 228 days.

George W. Bush became ineligible for this list on February 19, 2005.

The five Presidents who died the youngest after leaving office:

1. James K. Polk (see above).

2. Chester A. Arthur (see above).

3. Theodore Roosevelt. He died after serving his seven years and then running unsuccessfully against his successor, William H. Taft, in 1912. He died January 6, 1919, aged 60 years, 71 days.

4. Calvin Coolidge. He served the end of Harding’s term and then was elected for a term of his own. He died on January 5, 1933, aged 60 years, 185 days.

5. Ulysses S. Grant. After a hard-?drinking life, he died on July 23, 1885, aged 63 years, 87 days.

Franklin D. Roosevelt does not appear on either of these lists. He died younger than Grant (63 years, 72 days), but he died in office.

Presidents Carter and George H.W. Bush are already ineligible for these lists. Bill Clinton will be 63 years, 87 days old on November 14, 2009. His successor, George W. Bush, will be that old on October 1, 2009.

The Five Presidents Who Died Soonest
After Leaving Office

Some retired presidents are respected, others can live to see bad reputations slowly mollified, but these Presidents had very little time to enjoy their retirements.

1. James Knox Polk. He chose not to run for reelection in 1848, and retired from his one term on March 4, 1849. He died 103 days later, on June 15.

2. Chester A. Arthur. He became President upon Garfield’s death, but lost his bid to be nominated for his own term in 1884, and died one year, 259 days after leaving office, on November 18, 1886.

3. George Washington. The first President was the only President to leave office in the 1700s, and the only President to die in the 1700s. He died on December 14, 1799, two years, 285 days after leaving office.

4. Woodrow Wilson. He suffered a stroke while President, and some rumors say he was so incapacitated by it that his wife was acting President for the final five months of his presidency. Nevertheless, he survived another two years, 335 days after leaving office, dying on February 3, 1924.

5. Calvin Coolidge. He refused to be renominated for another term in 1928, and retired after six years in office. He died on January 5, 1933, three years, 337 days after leaving office.

6. Lyndon B. Johnson. He refused to be renominated for another term in 1968, and retired after five years in office. He died on January 22, 1973, four years, two days after leaving office. He doesn’t fit into the top five, but misses the list by a scant 31 days.

In order for George W. Bush to avoid a place on this list, he’ll have to survive until January 22, 2013, at which time he’ll be 66 years old.

The Five Presidents Who Lived Longest
After Leaving Office

1. Herbert Hoover. After serving one term, which saw the beginning of the Great Depression, Hoover lost his bid for reelection in 1932, and after Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s inauguration in 1933, he lived for 31 years, 230 days as a retired President, serving the government in several appointed positions before his death in 1964.

2. Gerald Ford. After succeeding to office following Richard Nixon’s resignation, Ford’s pardoning of Nixon may have guaranteed his loss in the election of 1976. He left office on January 20, 1977, and upon his death on December 26, 2006, had been retired for 29 years, 340 days.

3. Jimmy Carter. The 39th President, also served only one term, losing his bid for reelection. He left office on January 20, 1981, four years after Gerald Ford, and passed John Adams (see next entry) on May 22, 2006. He’ll pass Ford on December 27, 2010, and Hoover on September 7, 2012.

4. John Adams. The second President served only one term, and was the second President to die, but between his retirement on March 4, 1801 (when Thomas Jefferson was inaugurated), and his death on July 4, 1826 (the same day as Jefferson), he was retired for 25 years, 122 days.

5. Martin Van Buren. After losing the election of 1840 to the then-? oldest President, William Henry Harrison, Van Buren was almost nominated for President in 1844, and then ran for President on the Free Soil ticket in 1848. When he died on July 24, 1862, he’d been retired for 21 years, 142 days.

George H.W. Bush will pass Millard Fillmore (sixth on the list at 21 years, four days) on January 24, 2014, and Van Buren on June 11 of the same year (which will be the day before his 90th birthday).

Bill Clinton is precisely eight years behind GHWBush, and will pass Van Buren on June 11, 2022, two months before his 76th birthday.

George W. Bush will be precisely eight years behind Clinton, and will pass Van Buren on June 11, 2030, one month before his 84th birthday.

The Five Tallest Presidents

There have been stories that the taller presidential candidate always wins, or that added height gives one added respect. The former is not necessarily so. In the elections in which the heights of both major candidates were known, the taller candidate won less than 60 percent of the time. But does height lend greatness? Only history can judge.

The tallest Presidents were:

1. Abraham Lincoln 6'4". Did his height bring him greatness, or was it the time in which he lived and the challenges he faced? Lincoln was President during the Civil War, and the first to be assassinated.

2. Lyndon Baines Johnson 6'3". He succeeded to the presidency upon the assassination of John Kennedy, then went on to be elected to his own term in 1964, and chose not to run for reelection in 1968.

3 (tie). Thomas Jefferson 6'2.5". The third President wrote the Declaration of Independence, presided over the Louisiana Purchase, and is known for great achievements in a wide variety of fields.

3 (tie). Bill Clinton 6'2.5". The first Democrat to be reelected since Franklin Roosevelt, Clinton was only the second President to be impeached (following Andrew Johnson). Like Johnson, he was acquitted.

5 (tie). George Washington 6'2". Commander of the Continental Army and later the first President, he would have been known as a terrorist or a rebel had England been able to retain their upstart American colonies.

5 (tie). Chester Alan Arthur 6'2". He succeeded to the presidency when assassinated President James Garfield died in late 1881, but was not nominated for his own term in 1884, and retired in 1885, only to die a year later.

5 (tie). William Howard Taft 6'2". He was Theodore Roosefivelt’s handpicked successor, and served one term, 1909–13. He lost his bid for reelection when Roosevelt challenged him in the election of 1912, giving Woodrow Wilson the election. In 1921, President Warren Harding appointed Taft Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the position he’d most ardently desired all his life. He served as Chief Justice until early 1930, retiring for health reasons about a month before he died.

5 (tie). George H.W. Bush 6'2". He was the first sitting Vice President to be elected President since Martin Van Buren did it in 1836. Like Van Buren, he served only one term, and then was defeated in his bid for reelection. In 2000 he became only the second President to see his son also elected President.

The Five Shortest Presidents

As the previous chapter states, despite conventional wisdom, the taller candidate wins only 60 percent of the time. Two of the four tallest Presidents were elected in the second half of the 20th century. But of the shortest Presidents, the latest to serve was elected in 1900. Is height a requirement in the media age? Only history can judge.

1. James Madison 5'4". The fourth President nearly single-?handedly wrote the Constitution. He’s also famous for his vivacious wife, Dolley, who acted as White House hostess for Madison’s predecessor, widower Thomas Jefferson. The third of the four Presidents known as the “Virginia Dynasty”—Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe— he’s the only one on this list (Washington and Jefferson are both on the list of the tallest).

2 (tie). John Adams 5'6". The first Vice President of the United States was elected the second President when Washington retired, but he only served one term before being defeated by Thomas Jefferson. He was also the longest-lived President (he lived 90 years) until Ronald Reagan exceeded his longevity record in 2001.

2 (tie). Martin Van Buren 5'6". The ninth President (he served 1837– 41) was the last sitting Vice President to be elected President until George H.W. Bush did it in 1988.

2 (tie). Benjamin Harrison 5'6". The only grandson of a President to be elected President, he served only one term. He defeated sitting President Grover Cleveland in the election of 1888, and then lost when Cleveland came back to beat him in the election of 1892.

5 (tie). Ulysses S. Grant 5'7". The general who won the Civil War was only 5¢10 when he entered West Point (he made the height requirement by a scant inch), but shot up to 5¢70 by the time he graduated. The man he served during the war, Lincoln, was the tallest President.

5 (tie). William McKinley 5'7". The last President elected in the 19th century, and the first to serve in the 20th, he was assassinated at the Pan American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, and is frequently overshadowed by the Vice President who succeeded him, Theodore Roosevelt.

Most Common Presidential First Names

1. James was shared by six Presidents: Madison, Monroe, Polk, Buchanan, Garfield, and Carter.

2. John was shared by five Presidents: both Adamses, Tyler, and Kennedy. Although Coolidge went by the name Calvin, his given name was John.

3. William was shared by four Presidents: the first Harrison, McKinley, Taft, and Clinton (although he was commonly known as Bill).

4. George was shared by three Presidents: Washington and both Bushes.

5 (tie). Andrew: Jackson and the first Johnson.

5 (tie). Franklin: Pierce and the second Roosevelt.

5 (tie). Thomas: Jefferson and Wilson (although Wilson went by Woodrow).

The first President to have a unique first name is eighth President Martin Van Buren.

Most Popular States Where Presidents Were Born

Seven states account for 29 of the 42 presidents—a remarkably concentrated pattern of births—and only 20 states can lay claim to at least one Presidential birth. Of the original 13 states, Delaware, Maryland, and Rhode Island have still not produced Presidents.

1. Virginia was the birthplace for eight of the Presidents, including four of the first six (sometimes called the Virginia Dynasty): George Washington (born in 1732), Thomas Jefferson (1743), James Madison (1751), James Monroe (1758), William Henry Harrison (1773), Zachary Taylor (1784), John Tyler (1790), and Woodrow Wilson (1856).

2. In a span of 43 years, Ohio gave birth to seven Presidents (including the grandson of one of the Virginians): Ulysses Grant (1822), Rutherford B. Hayes (1822), James A. Garfield (1831), Benjamin Harrison (1833), William McKinley (1843), William Howard Taft (1857), and Warren G. Harding (1865).

3 (tie). Massachusetts birthed the two non-Virginians of the original six, but then became less prolific. The Bay State now claims four Presidents as native sons: John Adams (1735), John Quincy Adams (1767), John F. Kennedy (1917), and George H.W. Bush (1924).

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