Amercian Political Dynasties

By Melissa Ware and Brian Flanagan


The families of U.S. presidents and vice presidents are steeped in political heritage, and it is not surprising that many of them boast a prestigious lineage.  While there has never been an ascendancy in the United States like the Hapsburgs, Romanovs, Bourbons, or Windsors, we have had several political families that could be called dynasties.  In fact, many of America’s most powerful families have been interrelated.  Did you know, for example, that one family that produced two presidents was also related to four other presidents, a vice president, and Winston Churchill?

A closer look at these families, however, reveals a major distinction between American political dynasties and European royal dynasties.  There is no royalty here; there is no class of citizens rising to power based on the merits of their names alone — though names do certainly help.  More important is the draw to public service exhibited by these families: the infectious dedication to serving fellow citizens, in government and in the military, that is handed down from generation to generation.

The Adamses

George Washington became the first president of the United States for many reasons.  He was, perhaps, the most prominent American of the age.  He was a war hero, a politician, and he had exhibited the reluctance with which he wielded power by resigning his commission at the end of the Revolutionary War.  He had earned the trust of the people.  In fact, many of the powers entrusted to the American executive branch by the Constitutional Convention were entrusted only because it was widely assumed that Washington would be the first president.

But one other major benefit to Washington’s candidacy, in the eyes of many Americans, was that he did not have an heir.  Because he didn’t have a son who could potentially succeed him in office, the American people could rest assured that the nation was not on the verge of another monarchy.

The second president of the United States, John Adams, did have sons.  He had three, one of whom was already accomplished enough a public figure to be appointed foreign minister to the Netherlands and Prussia by George Washington. This set off alarms in the minds of many Americans who charged that our second president wanted to establish a new monarchy in the United States. But the Adamses would prove to be a dynamic family of contributors to the American Republic — America’s first political dynasty.

John Adams (biography), the second president of the United States, was a skilled orator and politician.  A Harvard-educated lawyer by trade, Adams was famed for his defense of John Hancock, and the accused British soldiers in the Boston Massacre.  He served in the Massachusetts legislature from 1770-1774, and was a delegate to the first and second Continental Congresses; along with Thomas Jefferson, Adams was one of two future U.S. presidents to sign the Declaration of Independence.  During the Revolutionary War, he served his country as a diplomat in France and Holland, negotiating many important loans that allowed the American war effort to continue.  After the war he served his country in Europe before returning as the first vice president of the United States under the new Constitution.  He became the second President of the United States in 1796, and held office during a turbulent time on the Atlantic that included America’s Quasi-war with France, and war between France and England.

Abigail Adams (biography), the second first lady of the United States, is often recognized as President John Adam’s greatest adviser.  John Adams served in the White House with a cabinet that was more loyal to George Washington and Alexander Hamilton than to their president, and often  times Abigail’s was the only voice he trusted.  She also cared for their home and children while her husband was overseas conducting business for his country; he could rest assured everything was under control at home.

Samuel Adams (biography), cousin and close friend of the second president, was a fellow advocate in the cause of American independence.  Samuel Adams wore many hats.  He was a businessman, tax collector, brewer, politician, and most importantly a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  He served as a delegate to the Continental Congress, a member of the Massachusetts State Constitutional Convention, and lieutenant governor of Massachusetts.  In 1794, Samuel was elected governor of Massachusetts, where he served until his retirement in 1797.

John Quincy Adams (biography) continued the outstanding political legacy of the Adams family.  John Quincy was educated at Harvard, and subsequently studied law in Massachusetts.  He opened a practice in Boston, and at the tender age of 26 became U.S. minister to the Netherlands.  Shortly thereafter, in 1802, John Quincy was elected to the U.S. Senate.  He served as President Madison’s minister to Russia and President Monroe’s secretary of state.  When Monroe’s two terms came to an end, John Quincy Adams was the obvious choice to succeed him on the Democratic-Republican presidential ticket.  Although Adams lost the electoral vote — and the nation’s first ever popular vote — to Andrew Jackson in 1824, Jackson’s failure to win a majority sent the election to the House of Representatives for only the second time in history.  (The first election decided in the House was in 1800, after John Adams finished third to Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr.)  John Quincy won the election in the House.  Opposed by Jackson again in 1828, Quincy Adams became a one-term president and retired to his farm.  He was later elected to the House of Representatives in the Plymouth District, where he served as congressman until 1848.  John Quincy Adams had three sons survive into adulthood.

George Washington Adams, one of John Quincy’s sons, was a Harvard graduate and lawyer, and was elected to the Massachusetts legislature in 1826.  Medical conditions began to catch up with him, at an early age, and his mental health became increasingly unstable in the years that followed.  In 1829, he was found dead six weeks after going overboard a steamer bound for New York.

John Adams II served as a presidential aide to his father.  He also worked as a journalist in Washington and ran a flour mill.  His death in 1834 was another tragic blow to John Quincy  Adams, who had lost his son George five years earlier.

Charles Francis Adams (biography) was also educated at Harvard.  Adams chose to pursue a literary career, editing the papers of his father and grandfather.  He also edited his grandmother Abigail’s letters and went on to publish his own writing.  He was nominated for the vice presidency on Martin Van Buren’s losing Free-Soil ticket in 1848, served as a U.S. representative from 1859-61, and was appointed American minister to Great Britain under President Abraham Lincoln.  Already deeply involved in American political life, Adams was appointed to a post by President Grant, and went on to challenge for the Liberal Republican nomination for president in 1872; he lost to Horace Greeley.

Many other Adamses followed in the footsteps laid by their forefathers: Charles Francis Adams, Jr., a historian and writer like his father, held multiple leadership positions within the railroad industry and was a Civil War general.  His son, Charles Francis Adams III, was President Herbert Hoover’s secretary of the Navy.  Henry Adams, the grandson and great-grandson of U.S. president, became America’s most prolific historian, author, and a Harvard professor.  Brooks Adams served as secretary of the Navy under President Hoover.

The Harrisons

America’s second political dynasty, the Harrisons, is lesser known even though it also included two presidents.  William Henry Harrison delivered the longest inaugural address in American history and served the shortest term, dying a month after taking the oath of office.  And his grandson, Benjamin Harrison, served one term. But the Harrisons are another example of a family that contributed greatly to society — on the state and national levels.

William Henry Harrison (biography) became president of the United States in January of 1841 after a long and distinguished career as a politician and soldier. In the U.S. Army he led offensives against the Indians of the Northwest, and served as Brigadier General during the War of 1812.  After his military career he served in the Ohio State legislature, the United States House of Representatives, and the United States Senate.  He and his wife, Anna Symmes, had 10 children before he died in office.

In the years between her husband’s death and her own, in 1864, Anna Symmes Harrison would lose all but one of her ten children.  John Scott Harrison, the only surviving child of one president, would go on to father another.

William Henry Harrison (biography) became president of the United States in January of 1841 after a long and distinguished career as a politician and soldier. In the U.S. Army he led offensives against the Indians of the Northwest, and served as Brigadier General during the War of 1812.  After his military career he served in the Ohio State legislature, the United States House of Representatives, and the United States Senate.  He and his wife, Anna Symmes, had 10 children before he died in office.

In the years between her husband’s death and her own, in 1864, Anna Symmes Harrison would lose all but one of her ten children.  John Scott Harrison, the only surviving child of one president, would go on to father another.

Benjamin Harrison (biography) was the twenty-third president of the United States, and he had  an equally distinguished career prior to his presidency.  Serving with the seventieth Indiana Infantry Regiment during the Civil War, Benjamin Harrison achieved the rank of his grandfather, brigadier general, after distinguishing himself in the Union assault on Atlanta.  Later a lawyer and involved member of the Republican Party, he watched seven presidents take office during his numerous attempts to secure public office.  He was elected a Republican Senator in 1881, and gained enough popularity to secure the Republican nomination for the presidency in 1888.  He defeated incumbent Grover Cleveland, but lost to Cleveland in the next election four years later.  Benjamin Harrison had three children from two marriages: a son and daughter with his first wife, Caroline Scott, and a daughter with his second wife, Mary Scott Lord Dimmick.

The Harrison legacy of public service would continue through the dedicated service of Benjamin Harrison’s only son, Russell Benjamin Harrison, who served as his private secretary during his presidency, a lieutenant colonel of U.S. volunteers during the Spanish-American War, and an Indiana state legislator.  The president’s grandson, William Henry Harrison, was a three-term Republican congressman from Wyoming.

The Lincolns

For three generations, the story of the Lincoln’s had been the story of the United States, of Westward expansion — from Virginia to Kentucky to Indiana to Illinois.  But Abraham Lincoln, born in a log cabin in Kentucky, reared in Indiana, and matured in Illinois, brought the family back Eastward — to Washington, DC — when he was elected president of the United States in 1860. There he established a political family worth examining for the enormity of its contributions and sacrifices, if not its longevity.

Abraham Lincoln (biography), 16th president of the United States, served his country and community in many ways before he was inaugurated president.  He was a captain in a company of Illinois volunteers during the Black Hawk War.  A lawyer by trade, he served as postmaster general of New Salem, Illinois, from 1833-36, a member of the Illinois State legislature from 1834-36, and a U.S. Representative from 1847-49.  He helped found the Illinois Republican Party, and his debates with Democrat Stephen A. Douglas during his failed 1858 U.S. Senate bid electrified Illinoisans, and helped elevate Lincoln to national prominence.

Lincoln was elected to two terms as president of the United States, in 1860 and 1864, and guided the nation through the greatest crisis in its history — the Civil War — before he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth at Ford’s Theatre in 1865.

Robert Todd Lincoln (biography) was the president’s only child (out of three) who survived into adulthood.  Robert Todd was a captain under Ulysses S. Grant during the Civil War before becoming a corporate lawyer.  He served as secretary of war in the Garfield and Arthur administrations, and was appointed minister to Great Britain by President Benjamin Harrison.  Abraham Lincoln has no surviving direct descendents today.

The Roosevelts

Perhaps the greatest of all American political dynasties, the Roosevelts, descended from Nicholas Roosevelt, a New York alderman from 1698 to 1701.  Some of Nicholas’s descendents established themselves in New York City and produced President Theodore Roosevelt, and others relocated to Hyde Park, New York, and produced President Franklin Roosevelt.  In all, two generations of New York City and Hyde Park Roosevelts — beginning with Theodore and Franklin — produced 2 presidents, a Spanish-American War veteran, 4 World War I veterans, 7 World War II veterans, and a combined 88 years service in political offices.

Theodore Roosevelt (biography), a Harvard graduate, began one of the most distinguished public service careers in U.S. history when he was elected to the New York State Assembly at the age of 23.  He would go on to become a member of the U.S. Civil Service Commission, president of the New York City Police Board, assistant secretary of the United States Navy, a Spanish-American War hero, governor of the state of New York, vice president, and president of the United States before reaching his 43rd birthday.  He became America’s youngest president after William McKinley’s assassination in 1901, and was elected president in 1904.  While in office, TR redefined America’s role in the world, helping pave the way for the global power the United States would become under Woodrow Wilson and TR’s cousin and nephew-in-law, Franklin Roosevelt.

TR had six children from two marriages: two girls and four boys.  All four sons enlisted in the armed forces during World War I, and his daughter Ethel Carow served as a nurse in Paris during the war.  Quentin Roosevelt, TR’s youngest son, was killed when he was shot down over France — the other three reenlisted and served during World War II.

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. (biography), a Harvard graduate and lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army during WWI, earned the Purple Heart, the Distinguished Service Cross, and the U.S. Distinguished Service Medal.  Theodore Jr. was appointed assistant secretary of the Navy by President Warren G. Harding, governor of Puerto Rico by Calvin Coolidge, and governor-general of the Philippines by President Herbert Hoover.  After being recommissioned as a brigadier general during World War II, he earned the Congressional Medal of Honor for being one of the first to storm the beaches of Normandy on D-Day.

Kermit Roosevelt (biography), also a Harvard graduate, served as a captain in the British Army prior to U.S. entry into World War I, and as a major of artillery in the U.S. Army after it entered the fight.  He fought again with the British Army in WWII, this time as major in Egypt and Norway.  After the war he rejoined the U.S. Army and died of natural causes on duty at the age of 54.

Archibald Bulloch Roosevelt (biography) also graduated from Harvard and served in World Wars I and II.  (He was severely wounded and discharged during both wars.)  He was awarded the Croix de Guerre for his contributions during WWI.

The Hyde Park Roosevelts, headed by Franklin and Eleanor in the middle of the 20th century, traced its family line back to Nicholas Roosevelt, the alderman of New York at the turn of the 18th century; Isaac Roosevelt, a New York State Senator who helped draft New York’s first Constitution; and James

Roosevelt, a New York State Assemblyman.  Franklin was fourth cousin once removed of President Ulysses S. Grant, fourth cousin three times removed of President Zachary Taylor, and seventh cousin once removed of Winston Churchill.   Eleanor was the niece of Theodore Roosevelt, and fifth cousin once removed of her husband, Franklin Roosevelt.  Inspired by a family that placed special emphasis on public service, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt were one of the most active and progressive political families in American history.

Franklin Roosevelt (biography) followed his famous cousin Theodore in many ways.  He was also Harvard educated.  He served in the New York State Senate at an early age, and was assistant secretary of the United States Navy during Woodrow Wilson’s administration.  He was elected governor of New York after a failed vice presidential bid and a three year struggle after he was stricken with polio.  He was then elected to the White House an unprecedented 4 times during the Great Depression and World War II.  He died in office on April 12, 1945.

Eleanor Roosevelt (biography) was perhaps the most active First Lady in American history.  After nursing her husband back to public life after he was stricken with polio, she was the best adviser in his White House on popular sentiment.  She co-chaired the Office of Civilian Defense, was active in the National Youth Administration, supported black civil rights, and wrote a daily column, all while fulfilling her other duties as First Lady.  After her husband’s death and the conclusion of World War II, Eleanor was appointed by President Harry Truman to the first American delegation to the United Nations, where she chaired the Commission on Human Rights, and helped draft the International  Declaration of Human Rights.  She was later reappointed to the United Nations by President Kennedy.

Together Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt had five children: one daughter and four sons.

Anna Eleanor (biography) was the eldest of the five children.  She served as a personal secretary to FDR during his presidency.  Later she worked in public relations for hospitals and helped found a school of medicine in Iran.

James Roosevelt (biography), also a personal secretary to his father, served as a colonel during WWII.  After losing a bid for governor of California, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1955.  He later wrote two books about his parents.

Elliott Roosevelt (biography) reached the rank of brigadier general in the Army Air Corps during World War II.  He later was mayor of Miami Beach, and author or editor of five volumes about his family.

Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr. (biography), a graduate of Harvard and the University of Virginia Law School, served in WWII as a navy ship commander.  Founder of the American Veterans Committee, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1949, and supported his good friend John F.


Kennedy for President.  He later became undersecretary of commerce (1963-65) and chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (1965-1966).

John Aspinwall Roosevelt (biography), a Harvard graduate, was a lieutenant commander in the United States Navy during WWII.  The only Republican Roosevelt, John Aspinwall headed Citizens for Eisenhower and later supported Nixon and Reagan.
The Tafts

In 1909, Theodore Roosevelt relinquished the Oval Office to his preferred successor, William Howard Taft. Taft was a member of another of America’s political dynasties. His father was an accomplished lawyer, politician, and diplomat, not to mention what might be the most interesting fact to our modern sensibilities: he was the co-founder of Harvard’s Scull and Bones Society (in which William Howard Taft, George H. W. Bush, George W. Bush, and John Kerry would all be members). Five generations of Tafts reached high political offices, all the way down to Robert Taft II — the current governor of Ohio.

Alphonso Taft (biography), a founder of the Cincinnati Republican Party, delegate of the National Convention nominating John C. Fremont in 1856, and alternate for the National Convention that nominated Abraham Lincoln in 1860, was an accomplished public servant.  A judge in the Cincinnati Superior Court, Alphonso Taft was appointed secretary of war, and then U.S. attorney general, by President Ulysses S. Grant.  President Chester Arthur appointed him minister to Austria-Hungary in 1882, and Russia in 1884.

William Howard Taft (biography), by the time his father retired in 1885, had already begun following in his father’s footsteps as a lawyer and politician.  He was a judge on the Cincinnati Superior Court, U.S. solicitor general, judge on the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and a professor of law and dean of the University of Cincinnati Law School.  His rise to national prominence was meteoric during Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency.  He was appointed commissioner of the Philippines by President McKinley, and governor-general by Roosevelt.  He succeeded Elihu Root as Roosevelt’s secretary of war in 1904, and succeeded Roosevelt himself on the Republican presidential ticket in 1908.  Taft served one term as president of the United States, and was appointed Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court by President Harding eight years later.

William Howard Taft had three children: two sons and a daughter.  His daughter, Helen Herron Taft, was dean of Byrn Mawr College and head of the history department.  Both of his sons followed in the footsteps of their father and grandfather, with distinguished careers in public service.

Robert Taft (biography), because of poor eyesight, was unable to serve in the military during World War I, but he did serve as assistant general counsel to the food administrator during the war.  He served 6 years in the Ohio house and 2 years in the Ohio senate before he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1939 — where he served for 14 years.  In the Senate he became the conservative figurehead for the Republican Party, staunchly opposing the New Deal, the Fair Deal, and U.S. participation in NATO and the UN, and supporting Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-communist crusade.  After a failed bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 1952, Taft died after becoming the Senate majority leader.

Charles Phelps Taft II (biography) withdrew from Yale to enlist in the army during WWII, where he achieved the rank of first lieutenant.  After completing his education he became active in Cincinnati politics.  He served as Hamilton county prosecutor, city councilman for 29 years between 1938 and 1977, and mayor.  On the national level, he served as director of community war services for the Federal Security Agency and director of economic affairs at the state department.  He made an unsuccessful gubernatorial bid in 1952 — the same year his brother ran for president — and went on to publish two books while remaining involved in city politics.

One of William Howard Taft’s grandsons, Robert Taft Jr. was a United States Senator for a term, and his great-grandchildren have continued to carry the family’s political torch.  Robert A. Taft II (biography) is currently Governor of Ohio, and William Howard Taft IV (whose father served as the United States Ambassador to Ireland) is currently serving in the United States state department.
The Kennedys

The Kennedy name invokes memories of the chaotic political environment of the 1960s: the presidency and assassination of John F. Kennedy, his brother Robert’s candidacy for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination, his assassination, the Cold War, Vietnam, the Civil Rights Movement, race riots, and the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr.  But the political prominence of the Kennedy family began long before JFK, and it continues still today.

Patrick Kennedy (biography), JFK’s paternal grandfather, served in the Massachusetts House from 1886 to 1890 before he was elected to the State Senate, where he served one term.  He also served three years as Boston’s wire commissioner, and fire commissioner for one year.

John F. “Honey Fitz” Fitzgerald (biography), JFK’s maternal grandfather was a member of the Massachusetts Senate for two years, and the U.S. House of Representatives for 6.  His real fame, though, came from his 6 years as the powerful, and often controversial, mayor of Boston.

Joseph P. Kennedy (biography), a Harvard graduate, was an accomplished and successful businessman at a young age.  He was awarded for his political and financial support of FDR with the chairmanship of the Securities and Exchange Commission, where he served for two years.  He then became chairman of the United States Maritime Commission before he was appointed ambassador to Great Britain in 1937, where he served 3 years and showed his isolationist colors at the beginning of World War II.  Through his support of FDR, and his son John a quarter-century later, Joseph Kennedy became a presidential king-maker.

Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (biography), Joseph Kennedy’s eldest son, was marked early as the future politician of the family.  His father invested much time and energy giving his son political connections, and bred in his son the political instincts that had given him such a successful career.  But Joseph, Jr., after graduating from Harvard and attending Harvard Law School, enlisted as a pilot in the United States Navy during World War II, and was shot down and killed in 1944.  Before his death, Joseph, Jr. served with distinction: he was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously, and had a Navy destroyer named after him in 1946.  With his breeding and record of service, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. could certainly have become a political giant.

John F. Kennedy (biography), Joseph’s second son and future president of the United States, also served in the U.S. Navy with distinction during WWII and had a ship named after him years later, the USS John F. Kennedy.  Most famously, JFK earned a purple heart and the Navy and Marine Corps medal for saving the crew of the PT boat he commanded after it was split in half by a Japanese destroyer.  After the war and his brother’s death, JFK was suddenly burdened with all of the hopes for political glory Joseph had had for his first-born.  He certainly lived up to his father’s expectations.  A Democratic member of the U.S. House Representatives from 1947 to 1953, JFK supported the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan.  A U.S. Senator from 1953 until 1961, Kennedy increased his already high profile when he published his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Profiles in Courage.  Kennedy won the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination, and challenged and defeated Richard Nixon in the general election.  Kennedy served as president of the United States until he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963.  Kennedy was survived by wife Jacqueline Bouvier, and son John Jr., and daughter Caroline.

Robert F. Kennedy (biography) did not serve with his brothers in World War II, although he did serve briefly in the Navy after the war.  He graduated from Harvard and the University of Virginia School of Law, managed his brother John’s 1952 Senate race, and worked as junior council to Senator Joseph McCarthy.  But Robert truly made a name for himself in the high-profile Senate Labor Rackets Committee, where he served as chief counsel.  Despite charges of nepotism, RFK served as his brother’s attorney general.  After JFK’s death, Robert won a seat in the United States Senate, serving for three years, and ran for the 1968 Democratic presidential nomination.  But Robert Kennedy, like his brother, was killed by an assassin’s bullet.

Edward Kennedy (biography), was too young to serve in World War II, but he was in the U.S Army for two years.  Like his brothers, he graduated from Harvard.  He earned his law degree from the University of Virginia, and managed JFK’s Senate race in 1958.  He then ran for the U.S. Senate in 1962, won, and has served for the last 43 years.  He made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 1980.

Joseph Kennedy also had five daughters.  One of them, Eunice Kennedy Shriver (biography), inspired by her mentally retarded sister Rosemary (who died in January 2005), advocated for the mentally disabled and founded the Special Olympics.  She married Sargent Shriver, director of the Peace Corps and head of the Office of Economic Opportunity under President Lyndon Johnson.  Joseph lived to see one son killed in World War II, and two others assassinated before his own death in 1969.

Joseph Kennedy’s grandchildren have continued to carry the family legacy.  JFK had two children, Caroline and John, Jr.  Caroline Kennedy (biography), a graduate of Radcliffe and Columbia University Law School, has worked as a film curator and an author.  John Jr. (biography), graduate of Brown University and New York University Law School did not share in his families desire to be an elected public official.  He was an editor for a political magazine, George, before his sudden death in plane crash in 1999.  RFK had 11 children, among them Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (former lieutenant governor of Maryland) (biography), Joseph P. Kennedy II (former U.S. Representative and potential 2006 candidate for the U.S. Senate or for Massachusetts governor) (biography), and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. (a graduate of Harvard, and the University of Virginia Law School who recently considered running for Attorney General of New York) (biography).  Eunice Kennedy Shriver had 5 children, among them Maria Shriver (wife of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger) (biography), and Mark Kennedy Shriver (former member of the Maryland House of Delegates, and failed candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives) (biography).


The Bushes

Of course, the most modern American political dynasty belongs to President George W. Bush. Like the Adamses, Harrisons, and Roosevelts before them, in 2000 the Bushes joined the ranks of American families producing two presidents.  George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush are the first father-son duo to reach the Oval Office since 1825. The Bush family has distant ties to Benedict Arnold, Presidents Franklin Pierce, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, and Gerald Ford, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, entertainer Marilyn Monroe, and the first President Bush’s own vice president, Dan Quayle.  The Bush family produced a 49er who participated in the California gold rush, an Episcopal minister, a champion heavy-weight boxer, and a golfer before the first political Bush entered the U.S. Senate in 1952.

Prescott Bush (biography), a graduate of Yale University, served in the Connecticut National Guard, and later in the United States Army during World War I.  A successful businessman on Wall Street, he became active in the Republican Party in World War II.  After failing in a 1950 U.S. Senate bid, he ran again and won in 1952.  He served in the U.S. Senate for the next 10 years.

With his wife, Dorothy Walker Bush, Prescott had five children who survived into adulthood: four boys and a girl  George Herbert Walker Bush (biography), the oldest son of Prescott Bush, joined the Navy at the age of 18 during World War II.  He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross after he was shot down over the Pacific.  After the war, Bush graduated from Yale with honors, and earned his fortune as an oilman over the next 18 years.  He ran successfully for the U.S. House of Representative in 1966, and served for 4 years.  He won a seat on the House Ways and Means Committee as a freshman congressman.  After losing a race for the U.S. Senate, Bush went on to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, U.S. liaison to China, and director of the CIA.  A two-term vice president under President Reagan, Bush secured the Republican presidential Nomination in 1988.  George H.W. Bush was inaugurated the 41st president of the United States on January 20th, 1989.  He served one term.  Like many former presidents, George H.W. Bush has continued to serve others since leaving office.  Most recently, he and Former President Bill Clinton headed the U.S. relief effort following the tsunami in Asia.

He and Barbara Bush, like Prescott, had five children: four boys and a girl.

George W. Bush (biography), George Herbert Walker Bush’s eldest son, was in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War.  He graduated from Yale and the Harvard Business School, then followed in his father’s footsteps becoming a Texas oilman.  After a failed U.S. Congressional bid, and working in his father’s political campaigns, George W. Bush ran in the Texas gubernatorial election in 1994.  After defeating popular incumbent Anne Richards, he served a term and a half as Governor of Texas.  He won the Republican nomination for president in 2000, defeated Democratic Vice President Al Gore, and is now serving his second term as president of the United States.

President and First Lady Laura Bush two fraternal twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara.  Barbara graduated from Yale this year, and Jenna graduated from the University of Texas.

Jeb Bush (biography), George Herbert Walker’s second son, was a Florida business man before becoming chairman of the Dade County Republican Party, Florida secretary of commerce, and running unsuccessfully for governor in 1994.  He founded a non-profit think tank, “The Foundation for Florida’s Future,” and worked with the Miami Children’s Hospital and United Way.  An advocate for school choice, Jeb Bush co-founded Florida’s first charter school.  In 1998, he ran again in the Florida gubernatorial election, this time defeating the incumbent.  He now is in his seventh year as governor of Florida.

The Clintons

A look at the Bush family brings us through the most current American political dynasty, but there are several more in the making. Bill Clinton was the son of a car salesman with no history of political involvement in his family. But fast-forward to 2005 and Bill Clinton is a former U.S. president, his wife a U.S. Senator, and his daughter a Stanford and Oxford graduate with political promise. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect about the Clinton family is continued speculation about the political futures of Bill, Hillary, and Chelsea Clinton.


William Jefferson Clinton (biography), graduated from Georgetown University where he gained early political experiences as class president his freshman and sophomore years, and as a part-time employee of Senator William Fulbright.  A Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, Clinton returned to the United States to attend the Yale University Law School.  After teaching law at the University of Arkansas, Clinton quickly launched his political career, becoming attorney general of Arkansas in 1977, and a one-term governor of Arkansas in 1979, at the age of 32.  Running again for governor in 1983, Clinton won and served 9 years before becoming the Democratic Presidential nominee in 1992.  He defeated incumbent President George H.W. Bush, making his childhood dream of becoming president of the United States a reality.  He was elected to a second term in 1996.
Hillary Rodham Clinton (biography), Bill Clinton’s wife of many years, graduated from Wellesley College with high honors, and received her law degree in 1973 from Yale.  Hillary taught law at the University of Arkansas, but gave up her post to resume practice with Rose Law Firm.  She was appointed as chair of the Legal Services Corporation Board, while first lady of Arkansas.  An active part of her husband’s election and presidency, Hillary was appointed by President Clinton to head the Task Force on National Health Reform.  She currently serves as a U.S. Senator from New York, and is talked about as a potential presidential candidate in 2008.

The Clinton’s have one daughter, Chelsea Clinton (biography), a graduate of Stanford with a Master’s in international relations from Oxford University.

The Gores

President Clinton’s vice president, Albert Gore, Jr., also belongs to what could be a blossoming political family. They are not newcomers to the Washington political scene — Albert Gore, Sr. served in the United States Congress for three decades — but the Gores have four children, including a writer, a lawyer, and a Harvard student.

Albert Gore, Sr. (Biography), served in Congress for 32 years, and prior to that held numerous positions in his home state of Tennessee.  A teacher by training, for 4 years Al Gore Sr. was a county superintendent of schools.  An educator, practicing lawyer, and the Tennessee Commissioner of Labor, Gore was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1938.  He left public office to enter the army, but returned to government as a U.S. Senator from 1953-1971.  After leaving public office, Albert Gore Sr. resumed law practice and executive leadership of Occidental Petroleum Co., held executive positions at oil and coal companies, and taught law at Vanderbilt University.

Pauline LaFon Gore (Biography), wife of Senator Albert Gore, Sr., and mother of Vice President Albert Gore, Jr., graduated from Vanderbilt University with a law degree.  An expert campaigner for her husband and son, and her husband’s closest advisor, Pauline LaFon Gore later became partner at Peabody, Revlin, Gore, Coaudous and Brashares, where she mentored many young, aspiring female lawyers.

Albert Gore, Jr. (Biography), a Harvard graduate, worked in real estate development until he served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.  Following his tour of duty, he attended Vanderbilt University Law School and worked as an investigative reporter for a Nashville newspaper.  In 1976, Al Gore, Jr. followed his father into the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served three consecutive terms.  In 1984, he was elected to the Senate, serving until 1993 when accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for vice president.  On the ticket with Bill Clinton, Gore won and served two terms as vice president of the United States.  In 2000 he was the Democratic Presidential nominee, but after a close and contested election, he was defeated by George W. Bush.

Mary Elizabeth (Tipper) Gore (biography), Albert Gore, Jr.’s wife, was a founder of Parent’s Music Resource Center in 1984, and has frequently been outspoken on mental health issues.

Al Gore and his wife Tipper Gore had four children: three girls and a boy.  During his campaign for the presidency in 2000, his eldest daughter Karenna Gore played an integral part.
The Cheneys

The Cheneys are another family creating a political legacy today. While Dick and Lynne Cheney have been mainstays in the White House and on Capitol Hill since 1969, their daughters are at the beginning of their careers.

Dick Cheney (biography) entered White House politics in 1969, playing a variety of roles in the Nixon and Ford administrations.  In 1975 he became President Ford’s chief of staff.  In 1977 he returned to his home state, and was elected to the House of Representatives where he served 6 consecutive terms.  While in the House, he developed a reputation among his colleagues as a tested leader and became minority whip in 1988.  Cheney left Congress to serve as secretary of defense in George H. W. Bush’s administration, for which service he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George Bush in 1991.  He received the Republican vice presidential nomination in 2000, and is serving his second term as President George W. Bush’s vice president.

Lynne Cheney (biography) has used her love of history to serve her country.  She was chairwoman for the National Endowment for Humanities in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations, from 1986-1993.  She is currently a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and director of the Reader’s Digest Association.  She has authored or co-authored 8 books.

The Cheney daughters are forging prominent positions for themselves these days.  The eldest daughter, Elizabeth Cheney (biography), recently promoted to the No. 2 position in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs; while the youngest sister, Mary Cheney (biography), recently received a one-million dollar advance to write her memoir.
Sources consulted

William DeGregorio. 2002. The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents: From George Washington to George Bush.  New York: Barnes and Noble Books.

Todd S. Purdum, “Weaned on politics, Cheney daughters find a place at the table.” New York Times.  May 31, 2005. Politics section.

Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress.  Biography of Gore, Albert Arnold (1907-1998), (June 2, 2005).

Biographical Dictionary of the United States Congress. Biography of Gore, Albert Arnold Jr., (June 2, 2005).

“Biography” Mrs. Cheney. (June 6, 2005).

Updated 11/01/2013