You want some history geekery? [UPDATED]

May 10th, 2008

I got yer history geekery right here. For reasons that aren’t clear even to me, I’ve cooked up a chart that tracks the prior government service of every President of the United States. You can have this ultra-spiffy Word document VERSION TWO 2.1 2.2* of this document for the ages for your very own by the simple expedient of . . .

. . . clicking this link.


  • Cmbt. = Military combat experience. Note that for a number of presidents, e.g. Lyndon Johnson, I’m not sure whether their military service involved combat or not, ergo I used parentheses. I excluded a number of military veterans who did not see combat during their military service, e.g. Abraham Lincoln. (This category added for version 2.0.)
  • Law = Practice as a lawyer, or admission to the bar. Note that Theodore Roosevelt’s entry has parentheses because, while he studied law seriously, he never practiced it, nor was he admitted to any state’s bar, so far as I know. (This category added for version 2.0.)
  • Lege. = Service in a colonial or state legislature.
  • Cong. = Service in the Continental Congress or U.S. House of Representatives.
  • Sen. = Service in the U.S. Senate.
  • Gov. = Service as a state governor. Note that William Henry Harrison and William Howard Taft are shown with parentheses because they served as governors of territories or possessions rather than states of the Union.
  • Judge = Service as a judge at any level.
  • Cab. = Service in the cabinet of another President.
  • VP = Service as Vice President of the United States.

No doubt I’ve overlooked or miscoded something along the way, so corrections or additions will be gratefully received.

Correction, Sunday morning, 10 a.m.: William Howard Taft, as everybody knows, never served as Vice President. He was elected President just after serving as Secretary of War. So I fixed this for version 2.1 of the document.

*Corrections, 6 July 2008: Per the comments of “bayesian” below, I amended the combat experience of Pierce, Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, and Ford.

5 Responses to “You want some history geekery? [UPDATED]”

  1. GeekMommy Says:

    One column I’d like to see in there is “voted in” – because a couple of those with lesser experience who were NOT simply military commanders were VPs who inherited the title.

  2. Tim Walker Says:

    GeekMommy — Let me make sure I understand you: you’d like a column that distinguishes VPs who were later elected President (e.g. Nixon) from those who simply ascended from the VP spot (e.g. Ford)?

    If I’ve got you right, what do we do with TR, Coolidge, Truman, and LBJ, who ascended on the deaths of their predecessors, but then *also* won election for themselves?

    I guess we could have three categories — VPs who ascended to the Presidency by election (J. Adams, Jefferson, Van Buren, Nixon, GHW Bush), those who ascended mid-term but then won their own election (T. Roosevelt, Coolidge, Truman, LBJ), and those who merely served out their predecessors’ terms (Tyler, Fillmore, A. Johnson, Arthur, Ford). Does that address the issue you raise?

    (P.S. in looking this over, I realized that I had included a VP stint in Taft’s experience . . . which didn’t happen. I’m correcting this now.)

  3. bayesian Says:

    Re “combat”

    Pierce had a combat brigade command in the Mexican American war.
    Garfield and B. Harrison both had multiple combat commands in the Civil War and fought in battles.

    I’d say that Ford saw combat at least as much as Eisenhower did, in that USS Monterey was in combat zones; other ships in her TF were hit by the Japanese. (Eisenhower never left CONUS during WW1; in WW2 he was always in well-protected rear echelon locations).

  4. Tim Walker Says:

    Thanks for the tips, bayesian — I made your suggested changes.

  5. What I’ve Learned So Far » Blog Archive » Who’s the best U.S. president since World War II? Says:

    […] 10 May 2008: You want some history geekery? […]

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