Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Presidential Firsts

The crossword puzzle clue was “Pres. first name.” Part of the clue is that “president” or “presidential” has been abbreviated, creating the likelihood that the answer is an abbreviation, too. Indeed, the answer is “JAS,” for “James.” The first president of the United States named James was James Madison, who presided during the War of 1812. But there have been six presidents named James. (That does not even count the vice-presidents with this name, who include James Schoolcraft Sherman, who died in office shortly before the election of 1912, leaving no time to have him removed from the ballot; consequently, many American voters knowingly cast their ballots for a dead man.)

This made me wonder how many presidents have shared the same first names. Answer: Twenty-three presidents (that’s more than half) have shared the same first name with at least one other president. Aside from the six Jameses, there have been four Johns, four Williams, three Georges, two Andrews, two Franklins, and two Thomases. Here they are in order of service within each name group:


George Washington, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush.


John Adams, John Q. Adams, John Tyler, John Kennedy.


Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Woodrow Wilson (That, perhaps, is debatable since Wilsondropped his first name).

James Madison, James Monroe, James Polk, James Buchanan, James Garfield, and James E. “Jimmy” Carter.

Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson.


William Harrison, William McKinley, William Taft, William J. “Bill” Clinton.


Franklin Pierce, Franklin Roosevelt (What are the odds?).


The 20 presidents with unique given names, presidentially speaking, are:


Martin van Buren, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant (real name: Hiram Ulysses Grant), Rutherford Hayes, Chester Arthur, Grover Cleveland (Stephen Grover Cleveland), Benjamin Harrison (grandson of William Harrison), Theodore Roosevelt, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama.