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Portraits: Jimmy Carter   Leave a comment

James Earl “Jimmy” Carter, Jr. (1924 –  )

Jimmy Carter, portrait at the National Portrait Gallery by Robert Clark Templeton

Jimmy Carter, portrait at the National Portrait Gallery by Robert Clark Templeton

The 39th President of the United States, 1977 – 1981

AKA: Jimmy, The Peanut Famer

From: Georgia

College: Georgia Southwestern College, Georgia Institute of Technology, US Naval Academy

Married to: Rosalynn Smith

Children: Jack, James, Donnel, Amy

Party:  Democratic

Previous Jobs: Peanut farmer, US Navy officer, state senator, Governor of Georgia

In His Words: “At the end of a long campaign, I believe I know the people of our state as well as anyone. Based on this knowledge of Georgians North and South, Rural and Urban, liberal and conservative, I say to you quite frankly that the time for racial discrimination is over.”

“We should live our lives as though Christ were coming this afternoon.”

“I’ve looked on many women with lust. I’ve committed adultery in my heart many times. God knows I will do this and forgives me.”

“I never felt that my dedication to military service was a violation of my faith in Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace.”

“Let us learn together and laugh together and work together and pray together, confident that in the end we will triumph together in the right.”

“We are a purely idealistic Nation, but let no one confuse our idealism with weakness.”

“Penalties against drug use should not be more damaging to an individual than the use of the drug itself. Nowhere is this more clear than in the laws against the possession of marijuana in private for personal use.”

“We are completely in bed with the Israelis to the detriment of the well-being of the Palestinians.”

“I can’t deny I’m a better ex-president than I was a president.”

Not true: In 1994, President Clinton and North Korea escalated tensions when North Korean President Kim Il-sung threatened to process spent nuclear fuel. Clinton then secretly recruited Carter to go on a “private” peace mission to North Korea to allow them a graceful exit without losing face.

Carter did indeed come to an understanding with President Kim Il-sung … but then went even farther. Without authorization, he negotiated a treaty and announced it on CNN – without Clinton’s permission – to help force the President’s hand. Eventually, a version of the treaty was signed and tensions did in fact decrease.

Until North Korea broke the treaty in reaction to a dispute with President George W Bush’s administration and the North Korean government of President Kim Jong-il.

It is true that Carter exceeded his “secret” authority, and whether or not the treaty was ultimately successful depends on your perspective. Bush administration officials, after North Korea discarded the agreement, stated they never intended to follow it. Carter felt the problem was with the Bush administration. In the end, however, the agreement was broken and North Korea remains unrepentant to this day.

True: Jimmy Carter is the first President born in a hospital.

In high school, Carter was a member of the Future Farmers of America.

In response to the 1979 USSR invasion of Afghanistan, Carter decided to boycott the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Amy Carter, who grew up while her Dad was President, had a tree house on the South Grounds of the White House. Sometimes she watched special ceremonies from there.

Carter is one of only 4 Presidents that did not have an opportunity to nominate a US Supreme Court Justice.

Carter is the only President to receive the Nobel Peace Prize after leaving office.

The Official Portrait: Herbert E Abrams painted this 1982 portrait of Jimmy Carter that’s in the White House collection. It was a gift to the White House from an anonymous donor. Abrams also painted the official White House portrait of George H. W. Bush.Jimmy Carter, officlal White House Presidential Portrait

Jimmy Carter Signature

Portraits: Grover Cleveland   Leave a comment

The painter of this portrait, Swedish artist Anders Zorn, drew his loose brushwork and preference for natural lighting from French impressionism. Cleveland was quite pleased with Zorn's likeness, declaring to a correspondent, "As for my ugly mug, I think the artist has 'struck it off' in great shape."

The painter of this portrait, Swedish artist Anders Zorn, drew his loose brushwork and preference for natural lighting from French impressionism. Cleveland was quite pleased with Zorn’s likeness, declaring to a correspondent, “As for my ugly mug, I think the artist has ‘struck it off’ in great shape.”

Grover Cleveland (1837 – 1908)

The 22nd President of the United States, 1885 – 1889

The 24th President of the United States, 1893 – 1897

AKA: His Obstinancy,  The Stuffed Prophet, The Elephantine Economist, Uncle Jumbo, The Guardian President

From: New Jersey, New York

College: One of 8 US Presidents that did not attend college

Married to: Frances Folsom

Children: Ruth, Esther, Marion, Richard, Francis

Party: Democratic

Previous Jobs: Clerk, teacher, assistant district attorney, county sheriff, lawyer, Mayor of Buffalo, Governor of New York

In His Words:  “The laboring classes constitute the main part of our population. They should be protected in their efforts peaceably to assert their rights when endangered by aggregated capital, and all statutes on this subject should recognize the care of the State for honest toil, and be framed with a view of improving the condition of the workingman.”

“I have tried so hard to do the right.”

“The wants and needs of the employers and the employed shall alike be subserved and the prosperity of the country, the common heritage of both, be advanced.”

“He mocks the people who proposes that the Government shall protect the rich and that they in turn will care for the laboring poor.”

“The United States, in aiming to maintain itself as one of the most enlightened nations, would do its citizens gross injustice if it applied to its international relations any other than a high standard of honor and morality.”

“What is the use of being elected or re-elected unless you stand for something?”

Not true: Charles Lachman wrote A Secret Life, chronicling the events surrounding a child that may, or may not, have been the product of Grover Cleveland’s so-called date rape of Maria Halpin, a 38-year old sales clerk and mother of 2. This affair was a smarmy sex scandal involving a bachelor … who would later run for governor, and then for President. At the time, newspapers pounced on the scandal, and Cleveland steadfastly clung to “the truth:” that Halpin had affairs with more than one man, including Cleveland’s law partner.  Cleveland took responsibility for the boy … and had the mother committed to an asylum when her drinking became a problem.

What’s true here? We don’t know. But can an author in 2011 really know definitively what happened in 1873? I think not. It is true the scandal was investigated in its day, and that Cleveland won two elections to the highest office in the land after the affair was widely known and investigated while the participants were all still living.

True: He is also the only President to have had his wedding inside the White House. He married his law partner’s ward, 24 years his junior, that he claimed to have fallen in love with when he first saw her as a baby.

Grover Cleveland is the only president to serve 2 terms separated by another President.

Utah was admitted as the 45th state during Cleveland’s Presidency.

He kept a mockingbird and several canaries as pets while President.

Cleveland paid a man $150 to serve in the Civil War in his stead (which was legal at the time).

He believed the President should be the executor of the nation’s laws … and not the creator of public policy. He believed that it was Congress’ job to make the laws, and he sought to avoid that task.

The Official Portrait: Eastman Johnson painted Grover Cleveland’s portrait in 1891; he also painted Benjamin Harrison’s portrait. Those two are the last portraits officially painted for the White House collection in the 19th century.

Grover Cleveland, Official White House Portrait

Grover Cleveland Signature


Big Mo

Portraits: Harry S Truman   Leave a comment

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Aileen Conkey,© Harris & Ewing Studio

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Aileen Conkey, © Harris & Ewing Studio

Harry S Truman (1884 – 1972)

The 33rd President of the United States, 1945 – 1953

AKA: Give ‘Em Hell Harry

From: Missouri

College: Spalding’s Commercial College (withdrew), University of Missouri – Kansas City (withdrew)

Married to: Bess Wallace

Children: Margaret

Party: Democratic

Previous Jobs: Railroad timekeeper, clerk, mailroom clerk, farmer, Captain in the National Guard, haberdasher, judge of the County Court, US Senator, Vice President

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; transfer from the National Gallery of Art; gift of Mrs. Augustus Vincent Tack, 1952

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; transfer from the National Gallery of Art; gift of Mrs. Augustus Vincent Tack, 1952

In His Words:  “Have fired 500 rounds at the Germans, at my command, been shelled, didn’t run away thank the Lord and never lost a man. Probably shouldn’t have told you but you’ll not worry any more if you know I’m in it than if you think I am. Have had the most strenuous work of my life, am very tired but otherwise absolutely in good condition physically mentally and morally.” (letter to Bess Wallace, 1918)

“People are very much wrought up about the Communist bugaboo.”

“Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a Republican. But I repeat myself.”

“It’s a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it’s a depression when you lose your own.”

“I am not worried about the Communist Party taking over the Government of the United States, but I am against a person, whose loyalty is not to the Government of the United States, holding a Government job. They are entirely different things. I am not worried about this country ever going Communist. We have too much sense for that.”

In his farewell address to the American people given in January 1953, President Truman referred to this concept very specifically in asserting that, "The President--whoever he is--has to decide. He can't pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That's his job."

In his farewell address to the American people given in January 1953, President Truman referred to this concept very specifically in asserting that, “The President–whoever he is–has to decide. He can’t pass the buck to anybody. No one else can do the deciding for him. That’s his job.”

“Some of my best friends never agree with me politically.”

“Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don’t know whether you fellows ever had a load of hay fall on you, but when they told me yesterday what had happened, I felt like the moon, the stars and all the planets had fallen on me. I’ve got the most terribly responsible job a man ever had.” (the day after he became President)

“No government is perfect. One of the chief virtues of a democracy, however, is that its defects are always visible and under democratic processes can be pointed out and corrected.”

“If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible, although I don’t want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances. Neither of them thinks anything of their pledged word.”

“If wars in the future are to be prevented the nations must be united in their determination to keep the peace under law.”

On the atomic bomb: “We have used it in order to shorten the agony of war, in order to save the lives of thousands and thousands of young Americans. We shall continue to use it until we completely destroy Japan’s power to make war. Only a Japanese surrender will stop us.”

“I have read your lousy review of Margaret’s concert. I’ve come to the conclusion that you are an eight ulcer man on a four ulcer job … Some day I hope to meet you. When that happens you’ll need a new nose, a lot of beefsteak for black eyes and perhaps a supporter below.” (Letter to critic Paul Hume, as quoted in TIME magazine, December 18, 1950)

On tight money: “It reflects a reversion to the old idea that the tree can be fertilized at the top instead of at the bottom — the old trickle-down theory.

Truman was so widely expected to lose the 1948 election that the Chicago Tribune ran this incorrect headline.

Truman was so widely expected to lose the 1948 election that the Chicago Daily Tribune ran this incorrect headline. Historians now believe that pollsters used telephone surveys to predict Dewey’s victory, and thus did not properly estimate the number of Truman voters that did not have telephones.

Not true: In Truman’s book Plain Speaking, he did say this:

“My choice early in life was either to be a piano player in a whorehouse or a politician. And to tell the truth, there’s hardly any difference.”

The often-quoted next line, however, never was written by Truman:

“I, for one, believe the piano player job to be much more honorable than current politicians.”

It is not known who applied that sentence to Truman’s actual quote.

True: His middle initial, S, was a tribute to both of his grandfathers’ names, but did not stand for anything.

He met his future wife, Bess, when he was 6 years old … in Sunday School at their Baptist church.

He proposed to Bess in 1905. She turned him down . There were married in 1919 after an extended courtship.

Truman was not accepted for an appointment to West Point, and then rejected by the National Guard because of his poor eyesight.  He overcame his 20-50 eyesight and passed the vision test by memorizing the eye chart.

In 1940, Truman used his chairmanship of the Committee on Military Affairs to investigate the fraud and abuses he saw on the military bases as the nation prepared for war. The press dubbed it “The Truman Committee,” and its success launched Truman to the national stage.

President Truman made some of the most crucial decisions in history. As WWII reached its final stage, Japan rejected a proposed surrender. Truman, after consultations with his advisers, ordered atomic bombs dropped on two Japanese cities devoted to war work: Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The Japanese surrender quickly followed.

In 1948, President Truman ordered desegregation of the armed forces.

In 1951, he was part of the first transcontinental TV broadcast.

The first family lived across the street from the White House in Blair House during the extensive renovations of the White House, 1948 – 1952.

The Official Portrait: Martha Greta Kempton studied at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts before emigrating to the US in 1926. After painting Bess Truman, she painted 5 portraits of Harry Truman, the first of which became the Official White House Portrait.

Harry Truman, official White House Portrait

Harry Truman, signature

Portraits: Andrew Johnson   Leave a comment

Andrew Johnson (1808 – 1875)Andrew Johnson photograph

The 17th President of the United States, 1865 – 1869

AKA: The Tennessee Tailor, and after his inauguration as Vice President where he self-medicated his typhoid with a couple of shots of whiskey, the “drunken tailor.”

From: North Carolina, Tennessee

College: One of 8 Presidents that did not attend college

Married to: Eliza McCardle

Children: Martha, Charles, Mary, Robert, Andrew

Party: National Union Party (the temporary name of the Republican party)

Previous Jobs: Tailor, town alderman, state representative, state senator, US Representative, Governor, Military Governor of Tennessee, US Senator, Vice President

In His Words: “Whenever you hear a man prating about the Constitution, spot him as a traitor.”

“I have lived among negroes, all my life, and I am for this Government with slavery under the Constitution as it is. I am for the Government of my fathers with negroes, I am for it without negroes. Before I would see this Government destroyed, I would send every negro back to Africa, disintegrated and blotted out of space.”

“I have had a son killed, a son-in-law die during the last battle of Nashville, another son has thrown himself away, a second son-in-law is in no better condition, I think I have had sorrow enough without having my bank account examined by a Committee of Congress.”

“The goal to strive for is a poor government but a rich people.”

Not true: Andrew Johnson did not say, “It’s a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word.”  That quote is from an unknown source, but cannot be traced to our 17th President.

True: Apprenticed to a tailor at the age of 10, Johnson first learned to read from customers that came to the shop.

He and his brother ran away from their master at about the age of 15.  The boys moved to South Carolina, and then settled in Tennessee.

Andrew Johnson did not learn to read until he was 17 years old; his writing and mathematics skills were taught by his wife.

Theodore R. Davis' illustration of President Johnson's impeachment trial in the Senate, published in Harper's Weekly.

Theodore R. Davis’ illustration of President Johnson’s impeachment trial in the Senate, published in Harper’s Weekly.

He freed his slaves in 1863.  He believed the institution of slavery should be destroyed, as it destroyed the Union.  At the same time, he believed all blacks should be returned to Africa.

Johnson was the only southern Senator who did not join the Confederacy. This made him very popular in the north and extremely unpopular in the south.

His oratorical skills won him the governorship of Tennessee.  His reliance on them as President, however, proved to be both divisive and destructive to his administration.

He was the first President to have his veto over-ridden.  Indeed, Congress overturned every veto that he attempted.  Johnson was not a popular man as President!

Johnson was the first President to be impeached.  The primary assertion of the articles of impeachment related to the President not following the Tenure of Office Act, which asserted the President could not fire a cabinet member after they were approved by the Senate.  The Supreme Court over-turned this law … but not until 1926.

Johnson’s impeachment vote for conviction did not pass — by one vote less than the required 2/3 majority.

Generally described as a failed President, Johnson was not expected to ascend to the Presidency when selected by the Republicans as their Vice Presidential nominee to balance the ticket with Abraham Lincoln.

The Official Portrait: Eliphalet Frazer Andrews painted this portrait of Johnson in 1880. He painted many of America’s leaders — most of them posthumously.  His full length portrait of Martha Washington is in the White House collection, as is the portrait Thomas Jefferson. His reverse copy of John Adams portrait by George Healy is now in the collection of the US Senate.

Andrew Johnson, official White House portrait

Andrew Johnson signature

Big Mo
The White House
Andrew Johnson’s Impeachment


Portraits: James Buchanan   Leave a comment

A daguerreotype of James Buchanan

James Buchanan (1791 – 1868)

The 15th President of the United States, 1857 – 1861

AKA: Old Public Functionary

From: Pennsylvania

College: Dickinson College

Married to: never married (the only President to never marry)

Children: none

Party: Democratic

Previous Jobs: Lawyer, US Congressman, US Senator, Secretary of State, Minister to the United Kingdom

In His Words: “All agree that under the Constitution slavery in the States is beyond the reach of any human power except that of the respective States themselves wherein it exists. May we not, then, hope that the long agitation on this subject is approaching its end, and that the geographical parties to which it has given birth, so much dreaded by the Father of his Country, will speedily become extinct?”

“I am the last President of the United States!”

“Sir, if you are as happy in entering the White House as I shall feel on returning to Wheatland, you are a happy man indeed.” (said to Abraham Lincoln on the day of his inauguration)

“Liberty must be allowed to work out its natural results; and these will, ere long, astonish the world.”

“What is right and what is practicable are two different things.”

Not true: Historical figures are often appropriated to fulfill a political agenda in today’s society.  Such is the case with Buchanan, who has been called the first gay President.  This allegation is unproven.  Circumstantial evidence is there (He never married!  He liked to gossip!  He lived with another man!).  However, he also had his heart broken by his fiance who died suddenly after breaking the engagement (suicide?).  Lots of questions here, and no definitive answer.  Was he gay?  We don’t know.  Was he heterosexual?  It appears so, though we don’t have the “proof” of a marriage and children. So, for me, I’ll simply say it is unproven that he was gay.  Some additional thoughts are below, under the “More” section.


James Buchanan was born in a log cabin and there were 11 children in his family.

Minnesota, Oregon and Kansas joined the Union during his Presidency.  Unfortunately, 7 states seceded:  South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, George, Louisiana and Texas.

Buchanan is frequently cited as the worst President, since he did not resolve the issue of slavery (just like his predecessors!) and did not prevent the secession of the South.

The Official Portrait: This red, white and blue painting was done by George Peter Alexander Healy in 1859.  So what’s going on with his hair? James Buchanan, Official White House Portrait



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