Grover Cleveland, who served as the 22nd (1885-1889) and 24th (1893-1897) U.S. President, was the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms. When he was sheriff of Erie County, New York, he twice had to spring the trap at a hanging, thus earning him the nickname of “Buffalo Hangman.” During his second presidency, a severe national depression occurred, but he is regarded as a successful leader and praised for his honesty, integrity, and adherence to his morals, even defying party boundaries.
The 26th president (1901-1909) of the U.S., Teddy Roosevelt, was shot while speaking in Milwaukee. He told the audience, “I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot. I give you my word, I do not care a rap about being shot, not a rap.” He finished his 90-minute speech with the bullet still firmly in his chest. (He recovered.) He assumed the presidency after McKinley was assassinated. At age 42, Roosevelt was the youngest person to become president of the United States. He began construction on the Panama Canal and won the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize. He is ranked as one of the country’s greatest presidents. (The teddy bear is named after President Teddy Roosevelt. In 1902, President Roosevelt participated in a bear-hunting trip in Mississippi, and he declined to kill a bear that had been captured.)
Woodrow Wilson was the 28th U.S. president, from 1913-1921. His face is on the $100,000 bill; these bills were mainly designed for trade between Federal Reserve banks, but have fallen out of use with the invention of the wire transfer. He served as president of Princeton University and governor of New Jersey before becoming president. He changed the nation’s economic policies and led the U.S. into World War I. He suffered a severe stroke in October of 1919, which left him incapacitated; he died at age 67.
The 30th president was Calvin Coolidge, from 1923-1929. As vice president, he succeeded to the presidency upon the death of President Warren G. Harding in 1923, followed by election in 1924. He had the nickname of “Silent Cal” since he said very little, but was known as a supporter of racial equality. (It has been said that occasionally he pressed all the buttons in the Oval Office, sending bells ringing throughout the White House, and then hid; he wanted to see who was working.)
Herbert Hoover, who served as President from 1929 to 1933, as the 31st president, was the first U.S. President to be born west of the Mississippi River. Prior and during his presidency, Hoover had a reputation for public service as an engineer, administrator, and humanitarian, although he became the scapegoat for the Great Depression. (His son had two pet alligators, which were said to be kept in a bathtub in the White House.)
Harry S. Truman was the 33rd president upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, serving from 1945 to 1953; Truman had only served as vice president a few weeks before he became president. After an urgent plea to Japan to surrender during World War II, Truman ordered the atomic bombs to be dropped on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which were the cities devoted to the war work. (He prospered for 12 years as a Missouri farmer before entering politics.)
“Ike” Eisenhower was the 34th U.S. President, from 1953-1961. A 1915 West Point graduate, he was a military officer and statesmen and attained the rank of a five-star general of the Army. He planned and supervised the invasion of Normandy (D-Day) from the Western Front in 1944-45. Under his presidency, Social Security was expanded, and the development and construction of the Interstate Highway System took place. One of his two sons died at age three years from scarlet fever. Eisenhower helped to popularize golf; he installed a putting green at the White House and played at least 800 rounds while in office. In the last 20 years of his life, Eisenhower also painted 260 oils. Ike’s grandson, David, married Richard Nixon’s daughter, Julie, in 1968.
Gerald Ford, the 38th president who served from 1974-1977, was the only president never to have been elected to the office of president or vice president. He was on the University of Michigan football team that won two national championships, and he was later a Yale graduate. He also worked as a fashion model during college, and was even featured on the cover of Cosmopolitan Magazine.
Jimmy Carter, from Plains, Georgia, was the nation’s 39th president, 1977-1981. He was a 1946 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. During his presidency, he was plagued with a major energy crisis, high inflation, and unemployment. He re-opened U.S. relations with China, but his presidency was damaged late in his term by a hostage crisis in Iran. He has authored 32 books, and, in his later years, he built a distinguished career as a diplomat and humanitarian. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002. (He reported a UFO sighting in 1973, calling it “the darnedest thing I’ve ever seen.”)
The 41st president of the U.S. was George H.W. Bush, from 1989-1993, and he served as vice president under Ronald Reagan, 1981-1989. He was a Yale graduate who had distinguished himself as a successful oil businessman and a former CIA Director. On September 2, 1944, he was flying over Japan when his aircraft was shot down. Bush and another crewman were able to bail out, but the other man’s parachute malfunctioned, and he went down with the plane.
John Kennedy, known as JFK, served as the 35th president of the U.S., from 1961-1963, killed by Lee Harvey Oswald on November 22, 1963. At age 46, he was the youngest president to die. He wrote the book, Profiles in Courage, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in his third year of office. The Cuban Missile Crisis occurred during his presidency. His famous quote is “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country.” (He was known as a James Bond fan, and first met the author, Ian Fleming, at a dinner party in 1960.)
And for our last listing this week, Barack Obama, the 44th president from 2009-2017, is a Harvard Law School graduate who is the first African-American president of the U.S.; he was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. He is especially noteworthy, too, for his health care reform, which became known as Obamacare, a law that provided health care insurance coverage for any American. Under his presidency, Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaeda leader who masterminded the 9/11 attacks and a reign of terrorism, was killed in May 2011. He also ended the Iraq War, after its more than eight years.
Depending on our age, we can recall these presidents and certain events that occurred, such as the assassination of John F. Kennedy, which I can still recall as a sixth grader sitting in the classroom of Mr. S.C. Howard in Glennville.