The 46 presidents of the United States have all brought unique backgrounds and experiences to the role. While some were military leaders who led troops into battle, others practiced law and even ran their own practice before entering the world of politics. From their university to hometown state, read on to learn more about 24 of these famous figures and what their journey to the presidency looked like.
Going in order—from America’s current president (Joe Biden) to the first (George Washington)—this list is filled with incredible throwback photos of what presidents looked like when they were young.
Our current president was born on November 20, 1942, in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Biden grew up with three siblings: his sister Valerie and brothers James and Frank. As a child, he worked incredibly hard to overcome a severe stutter. His perseverance paid off, and he went on to attend both the University of Delaware and Syracuse University Law School. By 30 years old, he was elected to the Senate, which launched the rest of his political career as we know it.
It’s no secret that Trump was raised in a wealthy family. Born on June 14, 1946, in Queens, New York, the real estate heir eventually took over his father’s business. But before that, he attended the New York Military Academy, Fordham University, and eventually Wharton School of Finance at the University of Pennsylvania.
As a Hawaii native, Obama—born August 4, 1961—grew up in the city of Honolulu. He stayed with his grandparents while attending the esteemed Punahou Academy, where he graduated with academic honors in 1979. He then moved on to Occidental College, transferred to Columbia University, and eventually graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law. His Senate career began in 2005 and ended in 2008, when he was elected president.
George W. Bush
While Bush was born on July 6, 1946, in New Haven, Connecticut, he grew up in Texas. He was accepted into Yale University in 1964 and enlisted in the Texas Air National Guard four years later—in the midst of the Vietnam War. In 1998, Bush became the first Texas governor to be elected to consecutive four-year terms. He also served two consecutive terms as president, from 2001 to 2009.
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Clinton famously became the country’s youngest governor of Arkansas in 1978 at just 32 years old. Born William Jefferson Blythe III on August 19, 1946, the future president was able to represent his home state before moving into the White House. Before his presidency and long political career, he attended Georgetown University, studied at Oxford University, and eventually enrolled at Yale Law School.
George H. W. Bush
Unlike his son, the elder Bush was not a Texas native. He was born on June 12, 1924, in Milton, Massachusetts. After graduating from Phillips Academy, he became the youngest pilot in the Navy during World War II at just 18 years old. Bush then attended Yale University and moved to the Lone Star State, where he made a fortune from the oil and petroleum industry. Not long after, his political career took off. He served as Ronald Reagan’s vice president from 1981 to 1989, before being inaugurated and taking over the Oval Office later that same year.
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This actor-turned-politician was born on February 6, 1911, in Tampico, Illinois. Reagan was student body president of his high school and always had an interest in drama and acting. After graduating from Eureka College in 1932, he secured a job as a sports radio announcer. Five years later, he got his big break by signing a seven-year contract with Warner Bros. In 1967, he went from Hollywood star to governor of California. And 14 years after that, he’d go on to become president.
Born on October 1, 1924, Carter was raised in his home state of Georgia. He valued education from an early age and became the first person on his father’s side to graduate from high school in 1941. He was then accepted into Maryland’s competitive Naval Academy, where he’d go on to work on submarines. He became the the only Georgian elected president of the United States in 1977.
Ford, aka Leslie Lynch King Jr., was born on July 14, 1913, in Omaha, Nebraska. Soon after his birth, his parents divorced and he moved with his mother to Grand Rapids, Michigan. Not only was he captain of his high school football team, but he also went on to earn the title of MVP while playing for the University of Michigan. In 1948, Ford ran for Congress and won, and he later served as House minority leader. He was ultimately sworn in as president in 1974, following Nixon’s resignation.
Born on January 9, 1913, in Yorba Linda, California, Nixon grew up the second oldest of five sons. Sadly, he lost two of his brothers to illness, one in 1925 and the other in 1933. After graduating from Whittier College and Duke University School of Law (and serving in the Navy), he eventually ventured into politics, serving as Dwight D. Eisenhower’s vice president in the ’50s. He became president in 1969 but left office two years after the infamous Watergate scandal of 1972. Nixon is the only commander-in-chief to resign from the position.
Lyndon B. Johnson
Johnson’s family settled in Texas before the Civil War. After he was born on August 27, 1908, they lost their farm due to financial struggles. The future president attended what’s now known as Texas State University—and after a brief teaching career, he made the decision to pivot to politics. By 1948, he was elected to be a Texas senator and became the youngest minority leader in Senate history five years later. He served as John F. Kennedy’s vice president from 1961 to 1963 and took over the presidency following Kennedy’s tragic assassination.
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John F. Kennedy
JFK was born on May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts. Growing up, his father was a wealthy banker-turned-politician, serving as chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and ambassador to Great Britain. After graduating from Harvard University, John, nicknamed “Jack,” enlisted in the Navy. At the age of 29, he ran for a seat in the House of Representatives and won. That eventually led to an eight-year Senate career, which then turned into a presidential run. At 43, he was the second youngest American president in history. On November 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated, leaving the nation shocked and devastated.
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Dwight D. Eisenhower
Born October 14, 1890, in Denison, Texas, Eisenhower grew up a big football fan. He played for the United States Military Academy but retired due to knee injuries. After graduating in 1915, he had a decorated military career. He even commanded the Allied forces in the 1944 D-Day invasion of Normandy. Just eight years later, he was elected president.
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Harry S. Truman
On May 8, 1884, Truman was born in Lamar, Missouri. He grew up on a nearby family farm and didn’t attend college. Once World War I began, he volunteered for duty and was made captain in France not long after. He returned from the war and faced financial struggles before deciding to build a political career. He was elected to the Senate in 1934 and served as Roosevelt’s vice president not long after. In 1945, he was elected commander-in-chief.
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Franklin D. Roosevelt
As a distant cousin of Theodore Roosevelt, FDR was destined for a political career. Born January 30, 1882, in Hyde Park, New York, he grew up in a wealthy family. After attending Harvard University, he studied at Columbia Law School. At age 28, he ran for New York state senate, winning his seat by a landslide. Once he became president in 1933, he led the country through the Great Depression.
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Hoover was born on August 10, 1874, in West Branch, Iowa. He lost both his parents as a child and was raised by his maternal aunt and uncle. As a lifelong humanitarian, he led hunger relief efforts in Europe during World War I and served as the head of the American Relief Administration. Just as he entered the Oval Office, the stock market crash of 1929 took place, launching the nation into one of its worst economic states of all time.
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Coolidge—who was born on July 4, 1872, in Plymouth Notch, Vermont—had ancestors who settled in Massachusetts in the 1600s and fought in the Revolutionary War. After attending Amherst College, he opened his own law office. By 1906, he was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Once President Warren Harding died in 1923, Coolidge, who was serving as his vice president, took over.
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Warren G. Harding
Harding was born on November 2, 1865, in Corsica, Ohio—which is now known as Blooming Grove. At just 14 years old, he attended Ohio Central College, where he graduated in 1882. He owned the Marion Daily Star newspaper, had a teaching career, and had a job selling insurance. Eventually, he turned to politics, where he won a seat in the Ohio legislature. He only served as president for around three years, from 1921 to 1923, when he unexpectedly died of a heart attack.
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Born on December 28, 1856, Wilson and his family continuously moved around the South, from Virginia to Georgia to South Carolina. He attended Princeton University in 1875, continued his studies at the University of Virginia, and earned his doctorate in political science and history at Johns Hopkins University. He served as governor of New Jersey two years before winning the presidential election and remained in power from 1913 to 1921. Remembered for his “Fourteen Points”—which created the League of Nations—Wilson led the country through World War I.
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A Big Apple native, Teddy Roosevelt was born on October 27, 1858. He eventually enrolled in Columbia Law School but dropped out to join the New York State Assembly as a representative from New York City—the youngest to do so at the time. When his mother and wife tragically died on the same day in 1884, he quit politics and moved to a Dakota ranch. He returned two years later and became President William McKinley’s vice president not long after. When McKinley was assassinated in 1901, however, Roosevelt became the youngest person to assume the presidency at 42 years old.
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James A. Garfield
Garfield was born on November 19, 1831, in a log cabin in Orange Township, Ohio. He was a great student and excelled in Latin and Greek at the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (later named Hiram College). He’d later return to his alma mater, this time as an instructor and administrator. During the Civil War, Garfield was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel in the Union Army. After winning the presidency in 1881, he was determined to make civil rights a priority. His plans were cut short, however, when he was tragically assassinated just 100 days after his inauguration.
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Rutherford B. Hayes
Hayes, another Ohio native, was born on October 4, 1822. After obtaining a degree from Harvard Law School, he moved to Cincinnati and opened a practice. After contested electoral college votes caused nationwide confusion, he secretly took the oath of office in the Red Room of the White House in 1877—the only president to ever do so. After serving one term, he left office to pursue causes such as children’s literacy, prison reform, and financial equality.
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Lincoln, one of the most famous U.S. presidents to date, was born on February 12, 1809, in LaRue County, Kentucky. In 1817, his family moved to Indiana following a land dispute. He eventually moved once again to Illinois to began his political career, where he was elected to the state legislature. Two years after his 1861 presidential inauguration, he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, a huge step towards the abolishment of slavery. In 1865, his assassination sent the nation into mourning.
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America’s very first president was born on February 22, 1732, in Westmoreland County, Virginia. Not much is known about Washington’s childhood, but he was homeschooled from the ages of 7 to 15. He was given the honorary rank of colonel following the French and Indian War and was made commander of all Virginia troops at age 23. After contributing to the country’s Revolutionary War victory, he resigned and returned to life as a farmer. He’d return to public service in 1789, however, when he received a vote from every elector to the Electoral College during the presidential election. To this day, he remains the only president in American history to be unanimously elected.