President Trump has joined a very exclusive club of five. In the entire history of American presidents, only five candidates have been elected president without ever having held public office of any kind. Donald Trump is the fifth.
We know the Trump story by now, but what about the other four guys? Can you name them? What did they do before they became president and how well did they do as president? Well, glad you asked.
- Zachary Taylor – The 12th President of the United States, in office from March 4, 1849 until his sudden death on July 9, 1850. Before his presidency, Taylor was a career officer in the U.S. Army, rising to the rank of major general. Taylor was a national hero as a result of his victories in the Mexican-American War. Although rather reluctant to run, the Whig Party talked him into leading their ticket.
Taylor won the election to the White House despite his vague political beliefs and general lack of interest in politics. His top priority as president was preserving the Union, but he died 16 months into his term, before making any progress on the status of slavery, which had been inflaming tensions in Congress. He remains the only president to come from Louisiana.
- Ulysses S. Grant was the 18th President of the United States (1869–77). As Commanding General of the United States Army (1864–69) Grant had worked closely with President Abraham Lincoln to lead the Union Army to victory over the Confederacy, in the American Civil War. Like Taylor, Grant was a war hero. As president, Grant implemented Congressional Reconstruction, often at odds with Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson. Twice elected president, Grant led the Republicans in their effort to remove the vestiges of Confederate nationalism and slavery, protect African American citizenship, and supported unbridled industrial expansionism during the Gilded Age.
- Herbert Hoover served as the 31st President of the United States from 1929 to 1933 during the Great Depression. He graduated from Stanford University as a mining engineer and was hired by a private corporation in China, where he soon became the country’s leading engineer. Caught up in the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, Hoover directed the building of barricades and devoted much of his time to rescuing Chinese children during that war-torn time.
In the First World War he built an international reputation as a humanitarian by leading relief efforts in Belgium during the war, and in Eastern Europe afterwards. He headed the U.S. Food Administration during that time. He built a reputation as a Progressive businessman fighting for efficiency and elimination of waste as the Secretary of Commerce 1921-28.
Hoover won the 1928 presidential election in a landslide. After the big stock market crash Hoover attempted to initiate programs to keep the Federal budget balanced and help America’s workers, but the Great Depression totally overwhelmed him despite the increasingly large-scale interventions he made in the economy. His political enemies unfairly painted him as the scapegoat for the depression and he was badly defeated in 1932.
- Dwight David Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the U.S. Army during World War II and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe. He was responsible for planning and supervising the invasion of North Africa in Operation Torch in 1942–43 and the successful invasion of France and Germany in 1944–45, D-Day. In 1951, he became the first Supreme Commander of NATO.
Eisenhower entered the 1952 presidential race as a Republican, although up to that point he was never very politically minded. As a matter of fact he hated politics. He won in a landslide, defeating Democratic candidate Adlai Stevenson.
During his two terms as president, Eisenhower was able to end the war in Korea, deal intelligently and successfully with the threat of nuclear war with the Soviets, build our national Interstate Highway System, and lead the country into one of the greatest periods of economic prosperity of all time.
- Donald Trump – A New York billionaire developer and media star who was swept into office with straight talk and a populist agenda that lit a fire with working class people across the country. Trump says whatever is on his mind and operates with a no nonsense business attitude. His mission is to “Make America Great Again” by creating more jobs, bringing American industry back, making better trade deals, and strengthening America’s military. His motives appear to be genuine. But never in my lifetime have I seen an opposition party so intent on destroying a president so completely. If he is able to succeed with so many against him, it will be a miracle. Time will tell.
Greg Crosby is a writer and cartoonist and former executive at the Walt Disney Company.