Who is the most powerful person in the United States? As commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces, the President is arguably recognized as the single most powerful person in the U.S. The President is elected by the people through the Electoral College and a person may serve as President up to 2 four-year term.
1. George Washington (April 30, 1789—March 4, 1797). No party. The 1st U.S. President. Washington served two terms. An American War General in the American Revolutionary War. As chief of the executive branch and head of the federal government, the presidency is the highest political office in the United States by influence and recognition.
2. John Adams (March 4, 1797—March 4, 1801). Federalist. The second President of the United States was a man who resided in New England and was a prominent attorney and politician from Boston. Adams was extensively educated with Enlightenment ideas and republicanism. A key Founding Father of the U.S.
3. Thomas Jefferson (March 4, 1801—March 1809). Democratic-Republican. The third President of the United States was one of the contributing writers of the Declaration of Independence. As a Founding Father, Jefferson wished that America would become an “Empire of Liberty,” representing the ideals of republicanism.
4. James Madison (March 4, 1809—March 4, 1817). Democratic-Republican. Madison is revered as the “Father of the Constitution” and the writer of the U.S. Bill of rights. The U.S. Constitution is considered the most important political document ever written. It would become the model by which constitutions later written in other countries would follow.
5. James Monroe (March 4, 1817—March 4, 1825). Democratic-Republican. The fifth President of the U.S. and the last who was a Founding Father. He would also be the last of presidents from the “Virginia dynasty.” Monroe was well regarded for the Monroe Doctrine in 1823 which asserted that the U.S. would no longer allow European intervention in the Americas.
6. John Quincy Adams (March 4, 1825—March 4, 1829). Democratic-Republican; National Republican. John Quincy Adams was the son of John Adams and Abigail Adams. As an American diplomat he served both Senate and House of Representatives. Adams’ presidency was not nearly as effective as the 17 years he later served as an elected U.S. Representative of Massachusetts. He and his wife, Abigail, were both strongly opposed to slavery during their time.
7. Andrew Jackson (March 4, 1829—March 4, 1837). Democratic. Jackson was an army general and politician before becoming a U.S. President. During the Revolutionary War, when he was thirteen, he received a sword cut for refusing to clean a British officer’s shoes. Jackson was also known as “Old Hickory” for his aggressive character. Jackson’s policies established what was known as “Jacksonian Democracy” which opposed government monopoly. Despite being a protector of popular democracy, he also owned slaves and supported Slavery and Indian removal.
8. Martin Van Buren (March 4, 1837—March 4, 1841). Democratic. Van Buren was the first President born as a United States citizen since the American Revolution. For a while he was Andrew Jackson’s Secretary of State and Vice President and was therefore an essential individual in the development of Jacksonian democracy. He was in office during an economic hardship, the Panic of 1837. For this he was often blamed and was named “Martin Van Ruin” by political opponents.
9. William Henry Harrison (March 4, 1841—April 4, 1841). Whig. Harrison was the first President to die in office. He died after 31 days in office due to pneumonia, making his tenure the briefest in the U.S. presidential history. This event led to many questions about presidential succession that was not answered by the Constitution until the inclusion of the 25th Amendment.
10. John Tyler (April 4, 1841—March 4, 1845). Whig, then no party. After the passing of President William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, his Vice President took the oath. This succession would figure future successions and became scripted in the 25th amendment. Tyler had been a Democratic-Republican before joining Harrison’s campaign. While in office he opposed and vetoed many Whig party proposals, resulting in the resignation of most of his cabinet and him being expelled from his party.
11. James K. Polk (March 4, 1845—March 4, 1849). Democratic. Polk had served as Speaker of the House from 1835 to 1839 and Governor of Tennessee from 1839 to 1841 before defeating Henry Clay for president in 1844 with his promise to annex Texas. He was also a prominent leader of Jacksonian Democracy.
12. Zachary Taylor (March 4, 1849—July 9, 1850). Whig. Taylor was a career military officer before running as a Whig in 1848. He was also known as “Old Rough and Ready,” having served in the War of 1812, the Black Hawk War, and the 2nd Seminole War. His moderate view on slavery angered many Southerners. After 16 months into his term, Taylor died of gastroenteritis.
13. Millard Fillmore (July 9, 1850—March 4, 1853). Whig. Fillmore was the last Whig to become a U.S. president. He assumed presidency after President Zachary Taylor’s death, since he was vice president. During his presidency he supported keeping slavery out of lands acquired from the Mexican-American War as a means to appease Southerners. He also supported and signed the Compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Act.
14. Franklin Pierce (March 4, 1853—March 4, 1857). Democratic. Pierce was a Democrat who was a Northerner with Southern sympathies (a.k.a. a “doughface”). During his presidency he made many divisive choices that earned him a reputation of one of the worst presidents. He was abandoned by his party and not nominated in 1856. During the Civil War he supported the Confederacy, further damaging his reputation.
15. James Buchanan (March 4, 1857—March 4, 1861). Democratic. Buchanan was a popular state politician and attorney before his presidency. Throughout most of the presidential term before him, he was stationed in London while serving as Minister to the United Kingdom. Because of this, he was not up-to-date on the crisis caused by the question of slavery. He spent a lot of his energy to maintain peace between the North and the South, but ultimately the Southern states declared secession.
16. Abraham Lincoln (March 4, 1861—April 15, 1865). Republican. In his campaign for president, Lincoln opposed the expansion of slavery. His victory led to the secessions of southern slave state, leading to the American Civil War. Lincoln closely led the war effort, selecting highly skilled generals such as Ulysses S. Grant. Lincoln was known to be a very charismatic leader with great oratory skills. Scholars recognize him as one of the greatest U.S. presidents.
17. Andrew Johnson (April 15, 1865—March 4, 1869). Democratic. Andrew Johnson became president when President Lincoln was assassinated. As president in charge of the Reconstruction, Johnson drafted conciliatory policies towards the South in a hurry to reincorporate former states of the Confederacy. His actions made him unpopular with Radical Republicans. The Radicals of the House of Representatives impeached him in 1868 but the Senate acquitted him by one vote. He was the first president to go through an impeachment trial.
18. Ulysses S. Grant (March 4, 1869—March 4, 1877). Republican. The eighteenth president of the U.S. was an army general during the American Civil War. The Union Army was able to defeat the Confederate effort when Grant was appointed lieutenant general. As President, Grant supported civil rights for freed slaves and contributed to the revival of the Republican party in the South. He also fought KKK violence. However, despite all this, his administration tolerated corruption and bribery. He was very unpopular when he left office.
19. Rutherford B. Hayes (March 4, 1877—March 4, 1881). Republican. President Rutherford B. Hayes was voted in during the close of the Reconstruction and when the Second Industrial Revolution occurred in the U.S. Prior to his presidential service, Hayes served the Union Army during the Civil War. He believed in a meritocratic government and racial equality.
20. James A. Garfield (March 4, 1881—September 19, 1881). Republican. Before becoming president Garfield served as a Representative for nine terms. Garfield advocated agricultural technology, civil rights for African Americans, a bi-metal monetary system, and an educated electorate. Garfield was assassinated after 200 days of being in office.
21. Chester A. Arthur (September 19, 1881—March 4, 1885). Republican. Arthur became president after the assassination of President James A. Garfield. Arthur grew up in New York and later practice law there. During the Civil War he was appointed to the quartermaster department while becoming brigadier general. Despite being poor health, he was able to perform solidly while in office. He left office respected by political allies and foes alike.
22. Grover Cleveland (March 4, 1885—March 4, 1889). Democratic. Cleveland was the only Democratic candidate to win presidency during the era of Republican domination from 1860 to 1912. He was also the only president to serve two terms non-consecutively. He was a leader among Bourbon Democrats who were opposed to inflation, subsidies, imperialism, Free Silver, and high tariffs.
23. Benjamin Harrison (March 4, 1889—March 4, 1893). Republican. Benjamin Harrison was a grandson of former president William Henry Harrison, making him the only president to be the grandson of another president. His legislation was responsible for the McKinley Tariff and the Sherman Antitrust Act as well as for federal spending to reached one billion dollars annually for the first time.
24. Grover Cleveland (March 4, 1893—March 4, 1897). Democratic. See a couple ranks above. Cleveland was the only president to be ranked twice, due to his non-consecutive service as president.
25. William McKinley (March 4, 1897—September 14, 1901). Republican. In his elections McKinley fought fiercely for upholding the gold standard and high tariffs. His leadership brought victory for the U.S. in 90 days in the Spanish American War. He is also highly regarded for forging a Republican coalition that dominated U.S. politics until the 1930s.
26. Theodore Roosevelt (September 14, 1901—March 4, 1909). Republican. As a soldier, explorer, hunter, naturalist, and author, Theodore Roosevelt was known for his cowboy image and robust masculinity. Before presidency he served offices at the federal, state, and municipal levels of government. Roosevelt became president when President William McKinley was assassinated. During his administration he tried to mobilize the Republican Party towards ideas of Progressivism. He won his first Presidential election after, which was technically his second term as President of the U.S.
27. William Howard Taft (March 4, 1909—March 4, 1913). Republican. William Howard Taft was the only U.S. President in history who also became a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He was born into the wealthy Taft family. He graduated from Yale in 1878 and from Cincinnati Law School in 1880. He was elected as President in 1908.
28. Woodrow Wilson (March 4, 1913—March 4, 1921). Democratic. Wilson was elected president as a Democrat in 1912. He was the only U.S. President to earn a Ph.D. degree. During his administration the U.S. entered World War I and renounced neutrality when Germany began unrestricted submarine warfare. He was barely reelected in 1916.
29. Warren G. Harding (March 4, 1921—August 2, 1923). Republican. Harding was a successful newspaper publisher before becoming president (this made him the first). During his campaign he promised to restore the U.S. to “normalcy.” President Harding often rewarded political allies and contributors with powerful positions with financial leverage. Scandals and corruption ran rampant under his administration. Scholars and historians consistently regarded Harding as one of the worst Presidents. He died during a train stop while on a return trip from Alaska to California.
30. Calvin Coolidge (August 2, 1923—March 4, 1929). Republican. Calvin Coolidge succeeded President Warren G. Harding when the latter passed away while still in office. Coolidge restored the public’s confidence of the White House and its drop because of the scandals from Harding’s administration. Coolidge was highly popular when he left office and was elected to serve again in 1924 after finishing Harding’s term.
31. Herbert Hoover (March 4, 1929—March 4, 1933). Republican. One of Hoover’s strategies to garner votes was to appeal to white Southerners and ignored civil rights. Hoover was a professional mining engineer. His training and technical expertise led him to believe in the Efficiency Movement, which asserted that the economy and government were inefficient and wasteful and could therefore be improved by expert knowledge. Less than eight months in office Hoover had to face the Great Depression. By the end of his term his administration had yet to find a solution to the economic disaster.
32. Franklin D. Roosevelt (March 4, 1933—April 12, 1945). Democratic. A.k.a. FDR. FDR is consistently regarded by scholars as the top three U.S. Presidents. He was the only president to serve three terms, after which an amendment was drafted to officially declare the two-term limit. During his time as president, FDR juggled with a great depression and a world war. Over the course of his presidency he drafted many projects which re-stimulated the economy and reduced unemployment from 20% to as low as 2%.
33. Harry S. Truman (April 12, 1945—January 20, 1953). Democratic. Truman served as President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s third vice president and succeeded him on April 12, 1945 when he died less than three months of his fourth term. During his presidency Truman had to deal with many challenges in domestic affairs. He established the Truman Doctrine to contain communism and spoke out against racial discrimination in the armed forces.
34. Dwight D. Eisenhower (January 20, 1953—January 20, 1961). Republican. Before his service as the 34th U.S. President, Eisenhower was a five-star general in the U.S. Army. During WW2 he served as Supreme Commander of Allied forces with responsibility for leading the victorious invasion of France and Germany in 1944 to 1945. His focus as President was to reverse end U.S. neutrality and challenge Communism and corruption. He drafted NASA to compete with the Soviet Union in the space race.
35. John F. Kennedy (January 20, 1961—November 22, 1963). Democratic. Also known as JFK. At age 43 Kennedy was the second youngest president ever when elected, after Theodore Roosevelt. JFK was the only president to have won a Pulitzer Prize and the only Catholic president. Events that happened during Kennedy’s presidency included the building of the Berlin Wall, the Cuban missile crisis, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the early Vietnam War, the Space Race, and the African American Civil Rights Movement.
36. Lyndon B. Johnson (November 22, 1963—January 20, 1969). Democratic. President Lyndon Johnson was one in four presidents to have served in all four federal offices of the U.S. government (President, Vice President, Representative, and Senator). He was well known for his domestic policies, including civil rights, Medicaid, Medicare, Public Broadcasting, the “War on Poverty,” educational aids, and environmental protection. However, his foreign strategy with the Vietnam War dragged his popularity.
37. Richard Nixon (January 20, 1969—August 9, 1974). Republican. President Nixon was the only president to resign from office. His presidency involved improvement of relations with the People’s Republic of China, the ending of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, and the achievement of détente with the Soviet Union. Nixon’s second term was riddled with controversy of the Watergate scandal.
38. Gerald Ford (August 9, 1974—January 20, 1977). Republican. Ford was assigned vice president when Spiro Agnew resigned during Richard Nixon’s administration. When Nixon resigned, Ford became president. While in office Ford signed the Helsinki Accords, easing relations during the Cold War. Involvement in Vietnam essentially ended not long after he became president. The economy was the worst since the Great Depression while he was in office. He also granted a presidential pardon to President Richard Nixon for the Watergate scandal, which drew controversy towards his name.
39. Jimmy Carter (January 20, 1977—January 20, 1981). Democratic. Carter was the 39th President of the U.S. and the only to receive a Nobel Peace Prize (in 2002) after leaving office. As president, he created two new cabinet departments: the Department of Education and the Department of Energy. The end of his term saw the Iran hostage crisis, the Three Mile Island nuclear accident, the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet, the 1979 energy crisis, and the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens.
40. Ronald Reagan (January 20, 1981—January 20, 1989). Republican. Prior to becoming a politician Ronald Reagan had been a radio broadcaster and actor. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology and economics. As president, Reagan implemented new economic policies that became known as “Reaganomics.”
41. George H. W. Bush (January 20, 1989—January 20, 1993). Republican. Before becoming the 41st President of the U.S., George H. W. Bush served as the 43rd Vice President, an ambassador, a congressman, and Director of Central Intelligence. He served as a U.S. Navy aviator during World War II. After the war he attended and graduated from Yale in 1948. He went into the oil business and became a millionaire by age 40.
42. Bill Clinton (January 20, 1993—January 20, 2001). Democratic. Clinton was elected into office at 46, making him the 3rd youngest president. He was the first president of the baby boomer generation. He graduated from Yale Law School. Clinton was involved in a scandal with a White House intern, which nearly got him impeached. Despite that, his work as president earned him the highest approval rating of any president since World War II.
43. George W. Bush (January 20, 2001—January 20, 2009). Republican. Bush graduated from Yale in 1968 and Harvard Business School in 1975, working in oil businesses after. Bush advocated policies on health care, the economy, social security reform, and education. In 2005 Bush was criticized for his administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina. With the combination of dissatisfaction with the Iraq War and the longest post-World War II recession in December 2007, Bush’s popularity declined sharply.
44. Barack Obama (January 20, 2009—Incumbent). Democratic. Current President Obama is the first African American U.S. president. He was previously a U.S. Senator from Illinois. He was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. He graduated from Columbia University and Harvard Law School.