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Although many paths may lead to the Presidency of the United States, the most common job experience, occupation or profession of U.S. presidents has been lawyer. This sortable table enumerates all holders of that office, along with major elective or appointive offices or periods of military service prior to election to the Presidency. The column immediately to the right of the Presidents' names shows the position or office held just before the Presidency. The next column to the right lists the next previous position held, and so on. Note that the total number of previous positions held by an individual may exceed four; the number of columns was limited to what would fit within the page width. The last two columns on the right list the home state (at the time of election to the Presidency) and primary occupation of each future President, prior to beginning a political career.
Of the 44 different people who have served as President:
26 Presidents had previously been lawyers
22 Presidents had previous military experience; 9 were Generals in the US Army.
18 Presidents previously served as U.S. Representatives; 6 of 18 held this office prior to the four 'previous positions' shown in this table. Only one - James A. Garfield - was a Representative immediately before election as President. Only John Quincy Adams served as a U.S. Representative after being President.
17 Presidents previously served as state Governors; 9 were Governors immediately before election as President.
16 Presidents previously served as U.S. Senators; only 3 immediately before election as President. Only one president, Andrew Johnson, ever served as a U.S. Senator after his presidency.
14 Presidents previously served as Vice-President. All except Nixon were VP immediately before election as President; 9 of the 14 succeeded to the Presidency because of the death or resignation of the elected President; 5 of those 9 were not re-elected.
8 Presidents were out of office (for at least one year) immediately before election as President.
8 Presidents previously served as Cabinet Secretaries; 6 as Secretary of State; 5 of the 8 served immediately before election as President.
7 Presidents had previous experience in foreign service.
7 Presidents came from the state of New York (8 if Grover Cleveland is counted twice), 6 from Ohio and 5 from Virginia; 4 from Massachusetts; 3 each from the states of Tennessee, California, Texas and Illinois. Presidents have come from 10 other states, 18 different states in all.
5 Presidents were close family relations of previous presidents: John Quincy Adams (son of John Adams), Benjamin Harrison (grandson of William Henry Harrison), Zachary Taylor (second cousin of James Madison), Franklin Roosevelt (nephew-in-law and distant cousin of Theodore Roosevelt), and George W. Bush (son of George H. W. Bush).
|President||Previous 1||Previous 2||Previous 3||Previous 4||State||Occupation|
|1||George Washington||out of office||Constitutional Convention||out of office||military||Virginia||planter, land surveyor|
|2||John Adams||Vice-President||foreign service||Continental Congress||State legislator||Massachusetts||lawyer|
|3||Thomas Jefferson||Vice-President||Secretary of State||foreign service||Congressman||Virginia||planter, lawyer|
|4||James Madison||Secretary of State||U.S. Representative||Constitutional Convention||State legislator||Virginia||planter|
|5||James Monroe||Secretary of State||foreign service||State governor||U.S. Senator||Virginia||lawyer|
|6||John Quincy Adams||Secretary of State||foreign service||U.S. Senator||State legislator||Massachusetts||lawyer|
|7||Andrew Jackson||out of office||U.S. Senator||military||U.S. Senator||Tennessee||lawyer|
|8||Martin Van Buren||Vice-President||Secretary of State||State governor||U.S. Senator||New York||lawyer, political organizer|
|9||William Henry Harrison||Local government||foreign service||U.S. Senator||State legislator||Ohio||military|
|10||John Tyler||Vice-President||State legislator||U.S. Senator||State governor||Virginia||lawyer|
|11||James K. Polk||out of office||State governor||Speaker of the House||State legislator||Tennessee||lawyer|
|13||Millard Fillmore||Vice-President||State office||out of office||U.S. Representative||New York||lawyer|
|14||Franklin Pierce||out of office||military||U.S. Senator||U.S. Representative||New Hampshire||lawyer|
|15||James Buchanan||foreign service||out of office||Secretary of State||U.S. Senator||Pennsylvania||lawyer|
|16||Abraham Lincoln||out of office||U.S. Representative||State legislator||----||Illinois||lawyer|
|17||Andrew Johnson||Vice-President||military governor||State governor||U.S. Representative||Tennessee||tailor|
|18||Ulysses S. Grant||military||----||----||----||Ohio||military|
|19||Rutherford B. Hayes||State governor||out of office||State governor||U.S. Representative||Ohio||lawyer|
|20||James A. Garfield||U.S. Representative||military||State legislator||----||Ohio||lawyer|
|21||Chester A. Arthur||Vice-President||out of office||Federal office||out of office||New York||lawyer|
|22||Grover Cleveland||State governor||Local office||----||----||New York||lawyer|
|23||Benjamin Harrison||out of office||U.S. Senator||out of office||military||Indiana||lawyer|
|24||Grover Cleveland||out of office||President of the U.S.||State governor||Local office||New York||lawyer|
|25||William McKinley||State governor||U.S. Representative||military||----||Ohio||lawyer|
|26||Theodore Roosevelt||Vice-President||State governor||military||Federal office||New York||military historian|
|27||William Howard Taft||Secretary of War||Territorial governor||judicial||Federal office||Ohio||lawyer|
|28||Woodrow Wilson||State governor||education||----||----||New Jersey||academic|
|29||Warren G. Harding||U.S. Senator||out of office||State legislator||----||Ohio||journalist|
|30||Calvin Coolidge||Vice President||State Governor||State office||State legislator||Massachusetts||lawyer|
|31||Herbert Hoover||Secretary of Commerce||out of office||----||----||California||mining engineer|
|32||Franklin D. Roosevelt||State governor||out of office||Federal office||State legislator||New York||lawyer|
|33||Harry S. Truman||Vice President||U.S. Senator||County commissioner (County court)||military||Missouri||business owner|
|34||Dwight D. Eisenhower||military||----||----||----||Kansas||military|
|35||John F. Kennedy||U.S. Senator||U.S. Representative||military||----||Massachusetts||politician|
|36||Lyndon B. Johnson||Vice-President||U.S. Senator||U.S. Representative||Federal office||Texas||teacher|
|37||Richard Nixon||out of office||Vice-President||U.S. Senator||U.S. Representative||California||lawyer|
|38||Gerald Ford||Vice-President||U.S. Representative||military||----||Michigan||lawyer|
|39||Jimmy Carter||out of office||State governor||State legislator||military||Georgia||farmer|
|40||Ronald Reagan||out of office||State governor||----||----||California||actor|
|41||George H. W. Bush||Vice-President||out of office||Federal office||foreign service||Texas||businessman|
|42||Bill Clinton||State governor||State Attorney General||----||----||Arkansas||lawyer, teacher|
|43||George W. Bush||State governor||out of office||military||----||Texas||businessman|
|44||Barack Obama||U.S. Senator||State Legislator||----||----||Illinois||lawyer|
|45||Donald Trump||out of office||----||----||----||New York||business owner|
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