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America's Presidents

The presidents of the United States are some of the most revered (or reviled) men in the nation. They have led our country through wars and economic recessions. Some presidents have inspired us to work for our country, while others have engrossed us in their scandals. Here we have rounded up the chief resources on chief executives:

Presidential History

George Washington

Known as the father of this nation, George Washington led an interesting and varied life before and after his presidency. Washington, whose father died when he was 10, boasted a decorated military career, leading battles at Trenton, German-Town, Valley Forge and more. Author David Ramsey has written about the history of these battles, as well as Washington's days out of uniform, in his book The Life of George Washington. After Washington retired from his life as an officer, his countrymen drew him into a role of government service that resulted in his election as our first president. He was the only president to be inaugurated in New York City. The man who scoffed at the idea of being king instead of president won respect through his dealings with the Indians, recommendations to revise the Federal system and insistence of presidential term limits. After he concluded his public life, Washington and his wife Martha retired to their historic plantation home at Mount Vernon.

President Andrew Jackson

Born in South Carolina to a Scottish-Irish immigrant couple, Jackson moved to Tennessee to become a cotton farmer and begin a political career, first in the House of Representatives and then as Tennessee's first senator. The Hermitage describes Jackson's political career from its beginnings to his first futile run for the Presidency and finally to his election. Although his political career is largely untarnished, Jackson and his wife, Rachel Donelson, received much criticism because of Donelson's divorce from her first husband, Lewis Robards, and the Jacksons' inability to conceive. Andrew Jackson Jr. was adopted. Jackson was seemingly talented at living, escaping death at least twice: once during an assassination attempt during his presidency and once during a duel that left a bullet permanently lodged near Jackson's heart. The Hermitage site has many other odd tidbits to satisfy the ever-curious history buff. After his presidential service, Jackson returned to Tennessee where he and his wife spent their days on a plantation home nestled outside of Nashville named The Hermitage.

President James Garfield

Before entering office, James Garfield was a teacher and principal. Education played an important role in his life, for while attending the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, he met his wife Lucretia Rudolph. Garfield, the nation's last log cabin president, defeated opponent General Winfield Scott by only 10,000 votes. This White House biography offers more details about the 6'2" Republican. Garfield's life ended early when an assassin shot him at the Washington Railroad Station four months after he took office.

President Theodore Roosevelt

Rough Rider Roosevelt was a New Yorker who welcomed challenges. His life was sprinkled with highs and lows, adventure and danger. He climbed the Matterhorn on his honeymoon. Roosevelt held a deep appreciation for education, having been schooled at Harvard. He put that education to use, authoring 38 scholarly works including Hunting Trips of a Ranchman, which he wrote after his wife, Alice, passed away. This White House biography lists many interesting Teddy facts.

President Jimmy Carter

James Earl Carter was born in the small Georgia town of Plains and went on to be our nation's 39th President. The Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains commemorates the Democratic president's boyhood farm and the town railroad station that served as his campaign headquarters in 1976. Carter began dating his wife, fellow Plains resident Rosalynn Smith, when she was only 17-years-old. Carter attended the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and went on to serve as Georgia's governor and then president by a margin of 56 electoral votes. His White House biography highlights the history of Carter's life of public service.

President Ronald Reagan

Learn more about the former president of the Screen Actors Guild and the United States at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. The Gipper, as Reagan was known in some circles, was born in Tampico, Ill. and played football for Eureka College. Reagan's second marriage to Nancy Davis resulted in two children. The former first lady has defined herself with a dedication to educating children about drugs and caring for her husband since he left office. Check out the Ronald Reagan Home Page for a tribute to this president.

   --- J.H.

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