Happy President’s Day! Some of the most famous (and infamous) American Presidents maneuvered the courtroom before they did the country. Here’s a list of some of the most memorable lawyer-Presidents and a few eyebrow-raising facts about them1 .

1. Thomas Jefferson (Legal Training: Post College Apprenticeship; President: 1801 – 1809)
This President was a rule-breaker back in the day. He was once arrested for taking a carriage ride in Vermont on a Sunday, violating the laws of that state2 .

2. Andrew Jackson (Legal Training: Apprenticeship; President: 1829 – 1837)
The first attempt to assassinate an American president was on Andrew Jackson. Richard Lawrence, a house painter, fired two guns at the President. Miraculously, both misfired (which statistically happens one in 125,000 times). Undaunted, Andrew Jackson then chased Lawrence with his walking stick3 .

3. James Polk (Legal Training: Post College Apprenticeship; President: 1845 – 1849)
James Polk began his formal education in 1813, only after he turned 184 . Clearly, it’s never too late to begin! Bonus fact: One week before his death, James Polk arranged himself a baptism5 . Slick!

4. Abraham Lincoln (Legal Training: Apprenticeship; President: 1861 – 1865)
Abraham Lincoln is the only President who was also a licensed bartender6 . He co-ran a bar, Berry and Lincoln, in Springfield, Illinois. He is also the tallest President at 6’42.

5. Woodrow Wilson (Law School: University of Virginia; President: 1913 – 1921)
Nothing deterred Woodrow Wilson from playing golf. He painted his golf balls black during the winter so he could see them in the snow2. He was one for solutions, this one!

6. Calvin Coolidge (Legal Training: Post College Apprenticeship; President: 1923 – 1929)
Calvin Coolidge was known to be a very odd man. He liked to have his head rubbed with petroleum jelly while eating breakfast in bed5. He would frequently press all the buttons on his desk to check if his staff was working5. A man of few words until the very end, his last will was only 23 words long7 .

7. Franklin D. Roosevelt (Law School: Columbia; President: 1933 – 1945)
Franklin D. Roosevelt grudgingly passed his bar exam, after having failed numerous subjects, and didn’t stick around to get his degree . In contrast, he was the longest serving American President!

8. Richard Nixon (Law School: Duke University; President: 1969 – 1974)

Richard Nixon failed as an orange juice entrepreneur. He wasn’t just the President of the company, he cut and squeezed the oranges himself. However, the business became bankrupt in just 18 months9 . Good thing he found his calling elsewhere!

9. Bill Clinton (Law School: Yale; President: 1993 – 2001)
Bill Clinton had a presidential cat named Socks Clinton, who he was allergic to10. The President was also allergic to chocolate and milk.

10. Barack Obama (Law School; Harvard | President: 2008 – 2016)
Barack Obama had a much more exotic pet- an ape called Tata, in Indonesia11 . Bonus fact: While at Harvard, this President’s application to appear in a black pin-up calendar was rejected by the all-female committee12 .

Our Presidents were a lot more interesting than they let on, weren’t they? And if you are thinking about a second vocation, Presidentship could be the one for you!

Photos courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

1Beran, Chelsea. Before They Were Presidents… They Were Lawyers. Law Technology Today, 2017.
2 O’Brien, Cormac. Secret Lives of the U.S. Presidents: What Your Teachers Never Told You about the Men of the White House. Philadelphia, PA: Quirk Books, 2004.
3Smith, Carter. Presidents: Every Question Answered. Irvington, NY: Hylas Publishing, 2004.
4Kelly, Martin. Top 10 Things to Know About U.S. President James K. Polk. ThoughtCo, Jul. 9, 2017, thoughtco.com/things-to-know-about-james-polk-104738.
5Greer Sellers Jr., Charles. James K. Polk, Volume 1. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1957.
6Frank, Sid and Arden Davis Melick. The Presidents: Tidbits and Trivia. New York, NY: Greenwich House, 1977.
7Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections. Coolidge Estate Bequeathed to Wife by 23-Word Will. Urbana, IL: Urbana Daily Courier, 1933.
8Burns, James MacGregor. Roosevelt. 1. Easton Press, 1956.
9Small, Melvin. A companion to Richard M. Nixon. Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.
10 Altman, Lawrence. Clinton, in Detailed Interview, Calls His Health ‘Very Good’. The New York Times, 1996
11Obama, Barack. Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. New York City, NY: Three Rivers Press, 2004.
12Frazier, Mondo. The Secret Life of Barack Hussein Obama. New York City, NY: Threshold Editions, 2011.
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