Special Report

Here Are the 48 People Who Became Vice President

Source: Library of Congress / Wikimedia Commons

11. George Mifflin Dallas
> Presidential administration(s): James K. Polk
> Year(s) in office: 1845 – 1849
> Party affiliation: Democratic

George Mifflin Dallas served as vice president from 1845 to 1849, during James Polk’s single-term presidency. Dallas was born into an aristocratic Philadelphia family, and his political motivations were partially rooted in a desire for historical fame. Though his personal designs on the presidency were never fulfilled, Dallas was an aggressive expansionist and supported the annexation of Texas. He is the namesake of Dallas, Texas.

Before becoming vice president, Dallas served in the U.S. Senate, representing his home state of Pennsylvania. After leaving the executive branch, he served as a minister to Great Britain.

Source: iip-photo-archive / Flickr

12. Millard Fillmore
> Presidential administration(s): Zachary Taylor
> Year(s) in office: 1849 – 1850
> Party affiliation: Whig

From 1801 to 1901, eight of the nation’s 22 vice presidents came from New York state. This was because the Empire State had the country’s largest congressional contingent, and as such cast the most votes in the Electoral College. Millard Fillmore (1800-1874) was one of these vice presidents.

Fillmore, born in a log cabin and raised on a farm in upstate New York, worked his way up through the Whig Party, becoming a congressman and New York state comptroller before becoming Zachary Taylor’s vice president. While vice president, he dealt with the volatile issue of the admission of Missouri to the Union. Fillmore served as vice president for only 17 months when Taylor died in office in 1850. He then became the country’s 13th president.

Source: Philanthropic Society, Phi Hall, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill / Wikimedia Commons

13. William Rufus King
> Presidential administration(s): Franklin Pierce
> Year(s) in office: 1853
> Party affiliation: Democratic

William Rufus King is the only Alabama resident to have served as vice president of the United States. Before becoming vice president, King served in the U.S. Senate, representing Alabama, for nearly 29 years, which at the time, was longer than all but one other senator in the history of the country. He was put on the ticket of presidential candidate and New Hampshire native Franklin Pierce in the hopes that the North/South ticket would appeal to a wide range of voters.

King was ultimately sworn in as vice president in Cuba, while trying to recover from tuberculosis. Less than a month later, he died of the ailment in Selma, Alabama. No one in American history has had a shorter term as vice president. Pierce served the rest of his term with no vice president.

Source: exit78 / Flickr

14. John C. Breckinridge
> Presidential administration(s): James Buchanan
> Year(s) in office: 1857 – 1861
> Party affiliation: Democratic

John C. Breckinridge was an eloquent orator with a proslavery stance as congressman from Kentucky. Breckinridge was chosen to serve as vice president with Pennsylvanian President James Buchanan for geographical balance and because his selection would appease powerful Illinois Sen. Stephen A. Douglas, who had worked with Breckinridge on the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Breckinridge became the nation’s youngest vice president at 36, but he fell out with Buchanan, who saw him as an ally of Douglas. Breckinridge was proslavery, though he was opposed to secession. His tenure as vice president was during a turbulent era in American politics, and he was recognized for his impartiality while presiding over the Senate and his call for national unity. Breckinridge ran for president in 1860 and finished third in a three-person race. Though Kentucky chose to remain in the Union, Breckinridge took up arms against the Union, and was expelled from Congress, which branded him a traitor.

15. Hannibal Hamlin
> Presidential administration(s): Abraham Lincoln
> Year(s) in office: 1861 – 1865
> Party affiliation: Republican

Hannibal Hamlin served as vice president of the United States during perhaps the most tumultuous time in U.S. history. Hamlin was added to the ticket of presidential candidate Abraham Lincoln. After their electoral win the Confederate states seceded from the union, and Hamlin’s tenure in the executive branch overlapped with the Civil War.

A native of Maine, Hamlin was selected to be Lincoln’s vice president to add some geographic balance to the ticket and for his anti-slavery, pro-union positions. Ultimately, Hamlin was outspoken about his disregard for his office and his inability to accomplish anything. He observed that he had more power as a senator than as vice president and that the office was a “nullity.” He did, however, offer Lincoln council when it was sought.

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