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How Many United States Presidents Were Senators First?

Amy Pollick
Updated: May 17, 2024

The short answer to the title of this article is: 16 presidents were senators at one time. They were: James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Benjamin Harrison, Warren G. Harding, Harry S. Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon and Barack Obama.

The Senate is generally seen as the “senior class” of the U.S. Congress. Few senators are elected without some political experience at other levels, whether in the U.S. House of Representatives, or at the state level. Senatorial candidates must be at least 30 years old when they register, and must be citizens for at least nine years. They must also be residents in the states where they qualify. Senators may also be called upon to serve on committees, and have a variety of duties as they serve the people of their state.

The fact that a little more than one third of all U.S. presidents were senators suggests the importance of the Senate with respect to the presidency. It puts candidates in the public eye and gives them a better idea of the kind of politics they espouse, what they support, and how they vote on certain issues.

When reflecting on which presidents were senators, these names seem to most often come to mind: Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon. Certainly, nearly all these men had distinguished careers as senators, and all were in office as president during critical times in U.S. history. Many of these presidents were senators when the whole country was paying closer attention than usual to those in government and knew they might be running their campaigns under intense scrutiny.

Certainly Harry S. Truman knew the eyes of the whole world were on him when he took the oath of office when President Franklin D. Roosevelt died in office in April, 1945. As vice president, he was immediately sworn in, and took charge of a country involved in the last months of a world war. Truman, in fact, gave the go-ahead to deploy the atomic bombs over Nagasaki and Hiroshima in Japan. No doubt, this decision changed the course of history.

John F. Kennedy was a popular president who never got a chance to run for re-election. He died 22 November 1963, the victim of assassination. Johnson, his vice president, took over and guided the U.S. through the turbulent 1960s, through Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement. Richard M. Nixon showed promise as a president, and great dexterity in foreign policy, but left in disgrace after resigning because of the Watergate scandal.

The U.S. has had 41 presidents, and 16 of those presidents were senators. Little children thinking about being president one day should look into being elected to the Senate first.

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.
Amy Pollick
By Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at America Explained. With experience in various roles and numerous articles under her belt, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers across various platforms on topics of all levels of complexity.
Discussion Comments
By anon148861 — On Feb 02, 2011

This question simply asked how many united states presidents were senators first? and people use it as a platform to trash the current president of the united states. please keep the political opinions to yourself. post your thoughts on political discussion boards. and George W Bush was the worst president. I love Obama health care, and hell yeah, I'm a democrat. lol

By latte31 — On Nov 01, 2010

Suntan12-President Lincoln, President John F. Kennedy, President James Garfield, and President William McKinley were all assassinated presidents.

The Presidents who died in office are William Henry Harrison, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Zachary Taylor, John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William Mc Kinley, and Warren G. Harding. President Nixon died in 1994, and President Reagan died ten years later in 2004.

Theodore Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Bill Clinton were the youngest Presidents who were 42,43, and 46 years old respectively.

By suntan12 — On Nov 01, 2010

BrickBack- Of the past presidents, by favorite was President Ronald Reagan. He used to say that, “Man is not free unless government is limited.” He also used to say, “Republicans believe every day is the Fourth of July, but the democrats believe every day is April 15.”

President Reagan was one of the 44 presidents of the United States that made the biggest difference. He understood how economics worked and realized that supply side economics allowed the country to grow economically.

He lowered taxes from 70% to eventually 24%. In addition, interest rates fell from 20% to 8% by the end of his second term. As a result of his polices, 25 million jobs were created.

Also, because of the pressure that he placed on Gorbachev, the Berlin Wall came down and communism was eradicated in Eastern Germany, all of Eastern Europe and most surprisingly, the entire Soviet Union.

He was such a force that when the country of Iran realized that President Reagan won the Presidency for the first term, Iran immediately released all of the American Hostages. Something that Jimmy Carter could not do the previous 444 days. Now that is what I call a President!

By BrickBack — On Nov 01, 2010

SurfNturf-He also was responsible for the Health care bill that over 70% of the American public are against, that will take choices away from the American people and ration medical services due to the shortage of doctors because 40% said they would leave the profession if this bill becomes law.

This is causing insurance companies to drop coverage because it will be too costly to cover and eventually the insurance companies will go out of business which will leave Americans with the single payer system that Americans despise.

In addition to ruling against the will of the American people, Obama has grown the deficit to an all time high. The amount of the budget deficient is equivalent to borrow 92% against the equity of your home on an interest only loan. That is where we are today.

The president’s cabinet is full of people that have the same radical liberal agenda. In fact, he does not have a single business person in his cabinet, and businesses drive the economy.

He also has never held a leadership post. He was a community organizer for Acorn, which is an organization notorious for voter fraud.

He was elected to the senate and did not serve a complete term. His lack of leadership experience and radically blind ideology are his biggest flaws and the American people are paying the price.

By surfNturf — On Nov 01, 2010

Anon8106- I wondered about that too.

The worst presidents have to be Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama.

Jimmy Carter became President in 1976 and during his term the interest rates went up to 20%, inflation was in the double digits and the unemployment rate was over 10%.

In addition, he raised taxes to socialist levels of 70% which created more economic turmoil.

Businesses were investing overseas and not investing in the United States. In addition, Iran held a large group of American’s hostage for 444 days and they were only released when President Reagan won the Presidency by a landslide.

Jimmy Carter only won electoral votes from his home state of Georgia, when President Reagan swept the rest of the 49 states.

Barack Obama is an even worse President than Carter. When he entered office the unemployment rate was only 4%, and only two years into his Presidency the national unemployment rate is over 10% and in Florida and California it is over 12%.

In addition, his policies of excessive governmental regulation and taxes have led many businesses to halt hiring entirely. In fact, many of the lost jobs will not be added again for another ten years.

By anon8106 — On Feb 07, 2008

I was driving home tonight asking myself this exact question. Thanks for the answer!

Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at America...
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