I’m officially at the last part of my journey through history through the presidents! I started all the way back with our first president George Washington, and I will finish part four of this series with our last president, Donald Trump. Enjoy!
37. Richard Nixon
January 20, 1969- August 9, 1974
Before he served in the Navy during World War II, Richard Nixon started his law career as a lieutenant commander in the Pacific. He was elected to Congress for his district in California and was elected to the Senate in 1950. Eisenhower selected Nixon as a running mate in the 1952 election.
Nixon ran against John F. Kennedy in the 1960 and lost by a narrow margin. Two years later, he failed to be elected as California’s governor. He ran for president again in 1968 and won against Vice President Hubert Humphrey.
As president, Nixon ended Americans fighting in Vietnam, created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), appointed conservative judges to the Supreme Court, and welcomed back the first astronauts who landed on the moon. He won the 1972 election by claiming his opponent was too far left.
One of the most well-known scandals in recent history is Watergate, a bunch of break-ins at the Democratic National Committee offices during the 1972 election. Although he denied any personal involvement, tapes from conversations in the Oval Office indicated that he obstructed justice. When he realized that impeachment was inevitable, he resigned from office.
Fun Fact: Nixon’s successor pardoned him, saving him from a criminal hearing and possible jail time. He spent the last two decades of his life trying to improve his reputation through speeches and books.
38. Gerald R. Ford
August 9, 1974- January 20, 1977
Gerald R. Ford was raised by his mother and stepfather in Michigan, where he attended college and starred on the football team. He became the assistant coach for Yale’s football team while he completed his law degree. In World War II, Ford became a lieutenant commander in the Navy.
After the war, Ford was elected into the House, where he served in Congress for twenty-five years. He became the Republican leader in 1965, and his reputation is what made Nixon choose him to succeed Vice President Spiro, who resigned from office.
Once Ford became president from Nixon resigning, he gave Nixon a full pardon. With a Democratic Congress, Ford vetoed many bills to stop several non-military appropriation bills that would increase the budget deficit. At the same time, President Ford provided aid to Israel and Egypt and set limits for nuclear weapons with Soviet Union leaders. He lost narrowly in the 1976 election to Jimmy Carter.
Fun Fact: Gerald R. Ford succeeded the first president to ever resign from office.
39. James Earl Carter
January 20, 1977- January 20, 1981
Jimmy Carter grew up on a peanut farm in Georgia. He served seven years as a Naval officer and a state senator for eight years. In 1970, Carter was elected governor of Georgia. He announced his campaign for president in December of 1974 but wasn’t well-known yet. Carter won the election against Gerald Ford with the electoral college.
While President Carter battled inflation and unemployment, deregulated petroleum prices to combat the energy crisis, deregulated the trucking and airline agencies, expanded the national park systems, and created the Department of Education and the Department of Energy. Carter also appointed a record number of women, African Americans, and Hispanics to federal positions.
Fun Fact: Carter is the third president in history to have won a Nobel Peace Prize (after Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson).
40. Ronald Reagan
January 20, 1981- January 20, 1993
Ronald Reagan grew up playing football and acting in school plays. He became a radio sports announcer before winning a contract with Warner Brothers, where he appeared in 53 different movies. Later, he was elected President of Screen Actors Guild, where he grew more conservative as he fought against communism.
Reagan became a spokesperson for conservatism and toured the country as a host of “GE Theatre.” In 1966, he became governor of California and was reelected in 1970. He was unable to secure the Republican nomination for president in 1976 but was successful in 1980. He won in a landslide victory where he defeated President Carter with 489 electoral votes to Carter’s 49.
While President Reagan expanded the defense budget, cut taxes, and challenged the Soviet Union. A couple of months after taking office, he was shot. After going through a near-death experience, his sense of humor caused his popularity to soar and him to get re-elected for a second term.
During his presidency, there was an investigation into a scandal that is known as the Iran-Contra Scandal. In his administration, high officials approved of sales of weapons to Iran and sent the money to antigovernmental fighters in Nicaragua. Upon investigation, no evidence was found that Reagan knew anything about the transactions.
Fun Fact: Ronald Reagan was the first President ever to be elected who was divorced.
41. George Bush
January 20, 1989- January 20, 1993
George Bush enlisted in the armed forces on his 18th birthday and was the youngest pilot in the Navy when he received his wings. During World War II, he flew 58 combat missions. He was shot down by Japanese anti-aircraft fire over the Pacific when he was flying as a torpedo bomber pilot and was saved by a U.S. submarine.
Bush began his career in the Texas oil industry before serving as a representative for Texas in Congress. He failed twice to become a Senator but served in many other roles, including ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in the People’s Republic of China, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and Vice President for Ronald Reagan.
In 1988, Bush won the Republican nomination for president and won the election. During his presidency, Bush developed a relationship with Soviet leaders and collaborated to reduce strategic nuclear weapons, sent troops to Panama to overthrow a corrupt government, and sent American troops to “free Kuwait” from Saddam Hussein’s invasion. It was called “Operation Desert Storm.” He lost the 1992 election to Bill Clinton.
Fun Fact: George Bush was the second former President to witness his son becoming president.
42. William J. Clinton
January 20, 1993- January 20, 2001
Bill Clinton began his political career when he was elected Arkansas state’s attorney general at age thirty. Two years later, he became governor. He lost reelection because the people feared that he had become “too liberal” but was voted back into office two years later.
Clinton won the Democratic nomination for President in 1992. He won the election with the electoral college. During his presidency, he reformed health care, reformed the budget, and reformed the North American Trade Agreement. For the first time in over 40 years, the Republicans won the majority in the House and the Senate. Adjusting, President Clinton aligned himself politically more in the center.
After getting reelected in 1996, Clinton defended the NATO bombing to stop the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, approved the bombing of Iraq, and worked to restore peace between Israel and Palestinians.
Bill Clinton lied about having sexual relations with a White House intern under oath and was impeached. He was acquitted on both accounts. Since his presidency, he has supported his wife Hillary’s political career, including running for President in 2008 and 2016.
Fun Fact: Bill Clinton’s father was killed in a car accident three months before he was born. He took his stepfather’s last name.
43. George W. Bush
January 20, 2001- January 20, 2009
George W. Bush followed in his father’s footsteps and attended prep school before graduating from Yale in 1968. He served in the Texas Air National Guard and was defeated in a U.S. House of Representatives campaign.
Bush served as an advisor in his father’s vice-presidential and presidential campaigns and became managing partner of the Texas Rangers while waiting for an opportunity in politics. In 1994, he became governor of Texas. In 2000, he won the Republican nomination for president.
On September 1, 2001, almost three thousand people died when hijacked commercial planes crashed into the World Trade Centers in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington D.C. Another hijacked plane headed for the Capitol Building but was overpowered by the passengers and crashed in Pennsylvania. President Bush declared a “War on Terrorism” and led American troops into war in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Bush narrowly won reelection against John Kerry because the war in Iraq and Afghanistan were becoming less popular. Bush was criticized for a slow response to aid survivors of Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed New Orleans in Louisiana. The country entered a recession in 2007 that was caused by the Housing Market Crash.
Fun Fact: George W. Bush holds both the highest and the lowest approval rating for a president.
44. Barack H. Obama
January 20, 2009- January 20, 2017
Barak Obama was born in Hawaii. His father was a Kenyan economist studying in Hawaii when he met Obama’s mother. When they divorced, Obama moved to Indonesia, where he spent his adolescence with his mother and stepfather. He moved back to Hawaii before fifth grade to live with his maternal grandparents and attend a prep school on scholarship.
Obama studied international relations and political science at Columbia before moving to Chicago, where he became a community organizer, improved housing conditions, and created jobs. He went to law school at Harvard and specialized in civil rights.
In 1996, Obama was elected to the Illinois Senate before getting elected to the U.S. Senate in 2004. He secured the Democratic nomination for president after a long battle against Hillary Clinton and won the election in 2008.
While President Obama faced many challenges, including the ongoing war in Iraq and Afghanistan and the financial crisis of 2008, he signed an economic stimulus bill, a healthcare reform bill, and legislation reforming the nation’s financial institutions. Obama supported equal pay for women, repealed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that kept people in the LGBTQ+ community from serving in the military.
Obama led the military operation that killed Osama Bin Laden, adopted the Paris Climate Agreement to slow climate change, and became the fourth president to win a Nobel Peace Prize.
Fun Fact: Barak Obama was the first African American President in U.S. history.
45. Donald J. Trump
January 20, 2017- January 20, 2021
Donald J. Trump started his career off in real estate when he took over his father’s business. Trump didn’t get involved in politics until he was 70 years old. He defeated over a dozen Republican candidates to secure the Republican nomination in 2016 and defeated Hillary Clinton in the general election by winning the electoral college.
Trump used unconventional communication methods, including Twitter, to communicate directly to the American people instead of using a press corps.
While President Trump oversaw a reduction of federal regulations, signed a tax bill, negotiated trade agreements with China, Mexico, Canada, Japan, and South Korea, and increased the military budget. He also was aggressive with immigration and criminal justice reform. In 2018, there was a partial government shutdown because Trump disagreed with Congress on the budget for the border wall.
Donald Trump was impeached for obstruction of justice and abuse of power in 2019. Then in January of 2020, the first case of COVID-19 in the United States was confirmed. President Trump was criticized for his delayed response and downplaying of the pandemic. Before he left office, more than 400,000 Americans had died from the virus.
After losing reelection to Joe Biden in 2020, Trump was impeached for incitement for insurrection. His actions led to a mob storming the capital on January 6, 2021, and put several politicians in harm’s way. He was once again acquitted.
Fun Fact: Donald Trump was the first president to be impeached twice.
That’s a wrap on my long and tedious trip through American history through our presidents. It took way longer than expected, but I’m glad that I did it. If you missed part one, part two, or part three, you could read those next. I hope you learned a little bit about our presidents through these posts. If you are interested, you can read more about the presidents with the sources that I used: the President’s Timeline and the White House Presidents. Happy learning!