Special Report

Each President’s Path to the Oval Office

Only 44 people have ever become president of the United States. All 44 were men; all but Barack Obama were white; and all but John F. Kennedy were Protestant. Most of them were lawyers or had a background in law. 

There has never been one direct path to the presidency, and the nation has profited from the group of 44’s varied and diverse experiences before they became America’s commander in chief. In recognition of their many roads taken to the nation’s highest office, 24/7 Wall St. has reviewed each president’s path to the Oval Office. We reviewed sources such as history.com and whitehousehistory.org to compile our list. 

Not all 44 set out to be president. Twelve men on this list were generals, including Dwight Eisenhower and Ulysses S. Grant, and leveraged their leadership experience and success in the military to become president. Eisenhower’s ability to delegate responsibility borne from his military experience as well as upgrading the Office of Congressional Relations helped him in his dealings with Congress. These are the presidents with the best and worst relationships with Congress.

Of those 12 who were generals, five served in the Civil War and all were from Ohio. Some were businessmen like George W. Bush and Harry Truman. Some were engineers, like Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter. It would be hard to define Theodore Roosevelt, who was a cowboy, naturalist, soldier, and conservationist, among other pursuits. Like all presidents, Roosevelt had his quirks. The 26th president had a secret pastime — walking around on stilts. Here is the weirdest fact about every president.

Click here to see each president’s path to the Oval Office

We compiled our list based on resource material from sources such as history.com, millercenter.org, constitutioncenter.org, whitehousehistory.org, and britannica.com.