Doug's Sounding Board


The Presidents edited by Michael Beschloss

I just finished reading this collection of small presidential biographies and seeing the changes over time in this was is very interesting. The styles of campaigning changing from you announcing your candidacy and the party campaigning for the candidate compared to today where the candidate has a lot of work cut out for them. The creation of party controlled newspapers which set the stage for things like Fox News. The ebb and flow of graft and corruption (this administration has definitely been flow).

Another thing I noticed was that most presidents had some legal profession background before becoming president. Of the 42 presidents, 25 have had a background in law while 17 haven’t. Of those, 11 of the non-lawyerly background were in the 20th century. Certainly both groups have their ups and downs, but the ones with the law background tend to have a bigger impact during their presidency (for better or worse).

Presidents without a law background:

  • George Washington – He was primarily a planter though he certainly knew how to run things.
  • James Madison – Life-long politician
  • William Henry Harrison – Soldier
  • Zachary Taylor – Soldier and farmer
  • Andrew Johnson – Tailor
  • Ulysses S Grant – Soldier, farmer, real estate agent, leather store clerk
  • James A Garfield – Schoolteacher, college professor, preacher, canal worker, soldier, president of Hiram College
  • Theodore Roosevelt – Writer, historian
  • Warren G Harding – Newspaper editor
  • Herbert Hoover – Miner, engineer
  • Harry S Truman – Timekeeper for railroad construction, bank clerk, farmer, haberdasher
  • Dwight D Eisenhower – Soldier, president of Colombia University
  •  John F Kennedy – Writer
  • Lyndon B Johnson – Teacher
  • Jimmy Carter – Farmer, businessman
  • Ronald Reagan – Broadcaster, film actor
  • George Bush – Founder of Zapata Oil and Zapata Off-shore Drilling
  • George W Bush – Businessman

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