A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the Mouth of labor the bread it has earned — this is the sum of good government.
— Thomas Jefferson
John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)
Term (1961-1963) Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson (1961-1963)
A commander during World War II, Massachusetts politician, U.S. Senator and 35th President of the United States. He was assassinated in 1963. He is the first and only Catholic President and the second youngest after Theodore Roosevelt. Events during his administration include the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the building of the Berlin Wall, the Space Race, the African American Civil Rights Movement and early stages of the Vietnam War. He was assassinated on November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas.
Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973)
Term (1963-1969) Vice President None (1963-1965), Hubert Humphrey (1965-1969)
Having serviced as a Congressman, Senator, and Vice President, Johnson became the 36th President after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He was re-elected the next year and was responsible for designing the “Great Society” legislation that included laws that upheld civil rights and social welfare programs. He also greatly escalated direct American involvement in the Vietnam War. His popularity declined because of the war his re-election bid in 1968 was unsuccessful. Despite the failures of his foreign policy, Johnson is ranked favorably among some historians because of his domestic policies.
Term (1969-1974) Vice President(s) Spiro Agnew (1969-1973), None (1973), Gerald Ford (1973-1974)
Attorney, Lieutenant Commander during World War II, Congressman, Vice President, and 37th U.S. President. The most immediate task facing President Nixon was a resolution of the Vietnam War and he successfully negotiated a ceasefire with North Vietnam in 1973. His foreign and economic policies and environmental reforms were largely successful and he was reelected by a landslide in 1972. In the face of likely impeachment for his role in the Watergate scandal, he resigned on August 9, 1974. He was the only President to resign the office.
Gerald Ford (1913-2006)
Term (1974-1977) Vice President None (1974), Nelson Rockefeller (1974-1977)
Career politician, Vice President and 38th U.S. President, he assumed the office after Nixon’s resignation in 1974. He presided over what was then the worst economy since the Great Depression. He lost the re-election in 1976 to Jimmy Carter.
Jimmy Carter (1924-Present)
Term (1977-1981) Vice President Walter Mondale (1977-1981)
Peanut farmer, naval officer, Georgia Governor and 39th U.S. President, Carter took office during a period of international stagflation, which persisted throughout his term. Throughout his career, Carter strongly emphasized human rights. By 1980, his popularity had eroded and he lost re-election.
Ronald Reagan (1911- 2004)
Term (1981-1989) Vice President George H. W. Bush (1981-1989)
40th President of the United States and 33rd Governor of California. He ranks highly among former U.S. presidents in terms of approval rating and in presidential surveys.
George H. W. Bush (1924-2018)
Term (1989-1993) Vice President Dan Quayle (1989-1993)
Naval officer in World War II, oil businessman, Congressman, Vice President and 41st U.S. President. Foreign policy drove the Bush presidency and in the wake of economic concerns, he lost the 1992 presidential election to Democrat Bill Clinton.
On November 25, 2017, George H.W. Bush became the longest-living President in U.S. History at the age of 93 years and 166 Days (and counting). The previous record had been held by Gerald Ford, with Ronald Reagan in third. Bush died on November 30, 2018, at the age of 94.
Bill Clinton (1946-Present)
Term (1993-2001) Vice President Al Gore (1993-2001)
Attorney, Arkansas Governor, and 42nd U.S. President, he presided over the continuation of economic expansion and a budget surplus in his second term. He was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with a scandal involving a White House intern but was subsequently acquitted. He left office with the highest end-of-office approval rating of any U.S. president since World War II.
George W. Bush (1946-Present)
Term (2001-2009) Vice President Dick Cheney (2001-2009)
The son of George H.W. Bush, oil businessman, Texas Governor and 43rd U.S. President. During his first year in office the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks occurred and Bush declared a global War on Terrorism, which led to the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001, and Iraq in 2003. His domestic policies on the economy, healthcare, education, and social security reform got him re-elected in 2004. President Bush lead a major push for US funds to purchase medicine for millions in Africa suffering from AIDS, a deadly health condition, which has been largely successful. His second term was marred with criticism as the nation entered “The Great Recession”, the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Barack Obama (1961-Present)
Term (2009-2017) Vice President Joe Biden (2009-2017)
Attorney, U.S. Senator, and 44th U.S. President, he is the first African American to hold the office. One of President Obama’s key achievements was getting the Affordable Health Care Act passed through Congress, which dramatically overhauled the health care system in the United States. He also oversaw the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden, mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attack that started America’s global war on Terrorism. The Affordable Care Act, through problems in design and by a non-functioning Congress, began to create problems in the healthcare market.
Donald J. Trump (June 14, 1946 – Present)
Term (2017 – ?) Vice President Mike Pence (2017 – ?)
A divisive atmosphere in American Politics led to one of the most contentious Presidential campaigns in American History and resulted in the election of the first President never to hold public office nor have a military background. Businessman Donald Trump ran on the promise to shake up Washington D.C. as an outsider and disrupter. We’ll all stay tuned to see what history will write.
All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree.
— James Madison
Compiled by Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated February 2019.