Donald Trump Isn’t the Only President Who Never Served in Congress
To become president of the United States, you must meet certain requirements. You must have been born on U.S. soil — if you’re born overseas you must have at least one parent who is a citizen — and you must be at least 35 years old.
What you don’t need to have to become president is experience. Yup, you read that right.
And oddly, many presidents never served in the Congress — either the House or the Senate — a great political training ground if there ever was one. Read on to find out which presidents didn’t serve in Congress and what kind of experience qualified them — or didn’t — to become the leaders of the country.
1. George W. Bush
George W. Bush served as president from 2001 to 2009, but never in Congress. Instead, according to History, he served two terms as a Republican governor of Texas. Bush graduated from Yale University and Harvard Business School, the Texas Rangers baseball team, and worked in the Texas oil industry — all before he became governor.
Bush defeated Gore by a narrow margin in 2000 to win the presidency. He is best known for declaring a global war on terrorism and establishing the Department of Homeland Security after the 9/11 attacks. In addition, Bush will always be remembered for getting the U.S. into wars with Afghanistan and Iraq.
Next: This one will surprise you.
2. Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton held the office of president from 1993 to 2001, but the Democrat never spent time in Congress. Clinton was, however, the governor of Arkansas, his home state, according to History.
Although Clinton’s second term was marred by sex scandals — that led to his impeachment and Senate acquittal in 1998 — the U.S. experienced prosperity and peace during his presidency. Unemployment numbers were low, crime was on the decline, and there was a budget surplus.
Next: Acting school maybe, Congress no
3. Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan’s term lasted from 1981 to 1989. Although he was never a member of Congress, he did have experience other than his former acting career, according to History. The 40th president served as the Republican governor of California from 1965 to 1975.
Reagan was a popular president — he increased defense spending, cut taxes, helped end the Cold War, and negotiated with the Russians to reduce nuclear arms. In 1981, he survived an assassination attempt and lived until he was 93, dying from Alzheimer’s disease in 2004.
Next: Our current leader’s credentials
4. Donald Trump
Billionaire businessman Donald Trump was elected in 2016 and currently serves as the president of the U.S. His experience not only doesn’t include serving in Congress, it doesn’t include anything even vaguely political.
Trump was a New York City real estate developer and reality TV prior to becoming America’s 45th president. His upset victory over Hillary Clinton shocked the nation. According to History, Trump is the first president with absolutely no previous government or military experience.
Next: Military might but no Congress service
5. Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower served as president from 1953 to 1961. He might not have been a member of Congress, but his military experience was legendary, according to History. Eisenhower served as supreme commander of Allied forces in Western Europe during World War II, and it was under him that the U.S. invaded Nazi-occupied Europe in 1944.
Eisenhower was in command of European NATO forces in 1952 when Republicans talked him into running for president. He beat Democrat Adlai Stevenson and went on to serve two terms. Eisenhower is known for strengthening the Social Security program, ending the war in Korea, and discrediting the rabid anti-Communist Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Next: A multimillionaire became the U.S. leader.
6. Herbert Hoover
Herbert Hoover was president of the U.S. from 1929 to 1933 and came into office just as the U.S. entered the Great Depression, according to History. Hoover did many things before he became president, but serving in Congress was not among them.
Hoover became a multimillionaire by traveling around the world to find mineral deposits and established businesses to extract the deposits. Thanks to his success, he served as secretary of Commerce under Warren Harding from 1921 to 1923. Hoover stayed on in the position when Calving Coolidge became president in 1923 — due to Harding’s unexpected death from a heart attack.
Next: This president didn’t serve in Congress but he won the Nobel Prize.
7. Woodrow Wilson
Woodrow Wilson served as president from 1913 to 1921, leading the U.S. through World War I. He became governor of New Jersey in 1910 and the Democrats nominated him for president in 1912, choosing the governor of Indiana, Thomas Marshall, as his running mate.
Wilson, a staunch advocate for democracy and peace, established the Federal Reserve and Federal Trade Commission. He tried to keep the U.S. out of World War I unsuccessfully, according to History, but after the war he negotiate a peace treaty that won him the Nobel Prize.
Next: From judge to governor to president
8. William Howard Taft
William Taft’s term lasted from 1909 to 1913, and the Republican definitely had some experience, even though it wasn’t from serving in Congress. Taft was a judge in Ohio Superior Court and in the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, according to History.
In 1900, Taft became the first civilian governor of the Philippines and in 1904 he became secretary of war under Theodore Roosevelt, who supported him when he ran in 1908. After Taft’s presidency, President Warren Harding appointed him chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, where he served until his death in 1930.
Next: An unexpected presidency
9. Theodore Roosevelt
When William McKinley was assassinated in 1901 Republican politician Theodore Roosevelt became the 26th president, serving from 1901 to 1909. He was elected again on his own merits in 1904. Roosevelt never served in Congress, but that didn’t stop him from breaking up industrial trusts under the Sherman Antitrust Act.
Roosevelt was also known for being a conservationist — during his presidency, he set aside approximately 200 million acres for reserves, national forests, and wildlife refuges, according to History. In addition, he won a Nobel Peace Prize for his negotiations to end the Russo-Japanese War and spearheaded the beginning of construction on the Panama Canal.
Next: From lawyer to governor to president
10. Grover Cleveland
Grover Cleveland served from 1885 to 1889 and from 1893 to 1897. He is the only president so far to have served two nonconsecutive terms, according to History. He never served in Congress, but he did work as a lawyer before he became the mayor of Buffalo, N.Y. in 1881.
In 1882, before he took office, Cleveland also served as governor of New York. Cleveland had mixed reviews as a president — the 1893 economic depression caused the Democrats to lose power, which ended his political career.
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11. Chester Arthur
Chester Arthur became president in 1881 when he was serving as vice president under James Garfield and Garfield was assassinated in 1881. He finished his term in 1885, according to History.
Garfield never served in Congress, but he was active in Republican politics when he was a lawyer in New York City in the 1850s. In addition, he served in the powerful role of customs collector for the Port of New York.
Next: American hero gets elected
12. Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses Grant served as president from 1869 to 1877 — although he wasn’t a member of Congress, he led the Union army to victory during the American Civil War, according to History. Due to his status as an American hero, Grant easily won the presidency. Grant focused primarily on reconciling the North and South during Reconstruction and protecting newly freed slaves’ civil rights.
Next: Forty years in the army qualified this president.
13. Zachary Taylor
Zachary Taylor served 1849 to 1850. He might not have served in Congress, according to History, but he had a plethora of military experience. Taylor did nearly a 40-year stint in the army, serving as commander of troops in the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War, and the Seminole Wars. He became a war hero during the Mexican War of 1846, which led to his election in 1948.
Next: From lawyer to diplomat to president
14. John Adams
John Adams served from 1797 to 1801, but he was never a member of Congress, according to History. He had plenty of experience, however, having been a leader of the American Revolution.
Adams also worked as a lawyer and served as a diplomat in Europe in the 1780s to help negotiate the Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolutionary War. Perhaps his best experience, however, came from when he served as America’s first vice president under Thomas Jefferson.
Next: Anyone who authored the Constitution deserves to be president.
15. George Washington
George Washington served as America’s first president from 1789 to 1797, but he never was a member of Congress. He was, however, commander in chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. And in 1787, he was elected president of the group who wrote the U.S. Constitution, according to History. Just two years later he became president — he left the county a legacy of integrity, purpose, and strength.
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