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How Many Left-Handed Presidents Has the US Had?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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No one is entirely sure how many left-handed presidents the US has had, since there aren't really clear records before 1929. Of those presidents whose handedness is known, six were left-handed, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Harry Truman. Ronald Reagan was said to be ambidextrous, so if he is counted then half of the US presidents since 1929 have been left-handed.

In chronological order, the known left-handed presidents are: Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. Other presidents who may have been ambidextrous or left-handed include Ronald Reagan, James Garfield, and Thomas Jefferson. If Reagan is counted as left-handed, then the United States was controlled by a left-handed president for 20 years from 1981 to 2001, which is unusual considering how rare left-handed people are in the general population.

There are some disputes about the list of left-handed presidents. Prior to the 20th century, left-handedness was regarded as a negative character trait, and it is possible that more presidents prior to the 20th century were left-handed, but they concealed that fact. “Retraining” of left-handed individuals was also very common well through the 20th century, with young children being forced to write with their right hands, even if their left hands were dominant.

Two of the presidents who could write with their left hands, Garfield and Reagan, experienced assassination attempts. Garfield probably would have survived if not for a series of mistakes on the part of his doctors, but he died after weeks of infection and misery. Reagan survived, as the bullet barely missed his heart. Truman and Ford were both vice presidents who succeeded to the office of the residency, after the death of President Roosevelt in 1945 and the resignation of President Nixon in 1974. Ford was the only president who never won a national election, as he was appointed to the office of the Vice-Presidency after Nixon's original running mate, Spiro Agnew, resigned from the office in disgrace after it came out that he took almost $30,000 US Dollars (USD) in bribes.

Given that an estimated seven to 10 percent of the population is left-handed, six out of 14 presidents since 1929 being left-handed is a pretty remarkable statistic, and a cause for pride among some members of the left-handed community. Left-handed individuals are supposedly more creative and articulate than their right-handed counterparts, due to differences in brain function, which may have something to do with the high number of left-handed presidents.

America Explained is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a America Explained researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon976054 — On Oct 30, 2014

I am left-handed and proud of it! Interestingly, the abbreviation for the left side of the body comes from the latin word for "sinister." I have had to learn to do things right-handed, but left-handed sports equipment was not available to me.

I'm pretty excited. Both my daughter-in-law and my son-in-law are lefties, so I'm hoping for at least one left-handed grandchild.

By anon955511 — On Jun 07, 2014

Left handed people like me are very creative and have the ability to do a lot of things very well that right handed people cannot, like screw things into the wall or a window that is on the right side. Don't think so? See how difficult it is for you right handed people to put up a shade bracket on the right side of a window on the inside of the window frame. It's not as easy as you think, but then again, it's harder for us to do the left side. It's also easier for us to bowl. There are a lot of championship bowlers who are left handed. There are also a lot more successful artists who are left handed.

By anon340729 — On Jul 05, 2013

I have a left-handed sister who fails to meet any stereotypical comments. She does absolutely nothing right-handed. By comparison, I a "righty," have over the years developed such a complete ambidexterity over the years, primarily to facilitate stroke recovery if necessary.

It's reached a point where I can now do certain things such as tying, washing dishes, etc. with my left hand without hesitating to make the choice. Despite all the changes I've failed to notice any hemispheric brain function except the growing satisfaction that post-stroke rehab won't be as big a chore.

By anon276114 — On Jun 21, 2012

If Reagan was left handed, why did he write with his right hand and throw a baseball and football right handed? I saw him sign a lot of documents on tv and he always used his right hand and threw out the first pitch at baseball games right handed. Reagan may have had dexterity with his off hand that is very unusual, but he was clearly right handed, not left handed.

As for the comment that Reagan "was considered the best president the United States ever had", I don't think you would find one reputable historian in the entire country who would say that. Ever hear of Abraham Lincoln or the Roosevelts?

By latte31 — On Dec 12, 2010

Cupcake15-I know that many schools have difficulty finding left handed scissors.

They say that people that are left handed tend to have more logical reasoning ability which makes them good leaders.

President Ronald Reagan was left handed and was considered the best president that the United States ever had. Another accomplished left handed president was President Bill Clinton.

However, this theory does not always hold true because Herbert Hoover was also a left handed president and he failed miserably.

By cupcake15 — On Dec 12, 2010

Armas1313-Wow that sounds like a traumatic experience. I know that it could be difficult for left handed people to find comfort in using everyday things because most things are made for people that are right handed.

The exceptions of course are golf clubs and guitars. I have seen many left handed electric guitars also known as lefty guitars. They also have left handed basses and even have a left handed beginner guitar.

Lefthanded guitars are quite common as are golf clubs for left handed people. I think that when you try to change your manual dexterity and try to make the other hand dominant it can trigger problems with respect to your cognitive abilities.

By Armas1313 — On Dec 09, 2010

I have relatives who were educated in conservative Catholic elementary schools and forced to write with their right hands. The result of this forced change was a speech impediment of stuttering. The forced switch triggers a speech issue in the brain which can correct over time. Nevertheless, the resulting stuttering caused them a lot of ridicule and distress at an early age.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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