Historic milestones Biden achieves

Every election offers a new opportunity for “firsts” and other milestones. Four years ago, this blog wrote about the many milestones Donald Trump achieved when he became the 45th President of the United States. Now, Joe Biden is set to be sworn in as the 46th President, and likewise he will set several “firsts” and milestones. Some of these are historic in nature; others are trivia, useful only if you are a contestant on JEOPARDY:

Joseph R. Biden, Jr.

  • Biden will be the 46th President of the United States.
  • Biden will be the oldest newly-elected president. He will be 78 years and 61 days old on January 20, 2021. The record is held by Donald Trump, who was 70 years and 220 days old on January 20, 2017. Biden will exceed Trump by 7 years and 206 days.
    • Biden will also be the oldest president at any point in his term. He will break the record held by Ronald Reagan, who was 77 years and 348 days old when he left office in 1989.
    • Remarkably, the last four presidents – Trump, Obama, George W. Bush, and Clinton – are all younger than Biden. That’s a first.
  • Biden is the 1st president from “the First State” of Delaware; he has been a resident since childhood. Delaware is the first 3-electoral-vote state to elect a president (3 being the constitutional minimum possible). Up to now, Franklin Pierce has been the president from a state with the fewest electoral votes – his home state of New Hampshire had 5 when he was elected in 1852. (New Hampshire’s population at the time was 317,976, still least-populated state to elect a president.)
    • Biden is the 2nd president to be born in Pennsylvania, following James Buchanan. Up to now, the “Keystone State” – the home of Benjamin Franklin and Independence Hall – could claim only Buchanan, the only president who was born in Pennsylvania, who was elected from there, who died there, and who is buried there.
    • Biden’s election from Delaware means that a majority of the states, 26 of the 50, can claim to either be the birthplace of a president, or the home state at the time that a president took office. Twenty-four states still cannot claim to be either the birthplace or home of a U.S. President.
  • Biden is of 3rd president with primarily Irish ancestry, following Kennedy and Reagan. He is at least the 22nd president with at least some Irish ancestry.
  • Biden is the 2nd president to be Roman Catholic, following Kennedy. (Biden was the 1st Roman Catholic vice president.)
  • Biden is the 15th vice president to subsequently become president:
    • He is only the 2nd former vice president to become president, following Richard Nixon.
    • He is the 6th vice president to be elected president without first having succeeded to the presidency, following John Adams, Jefferson, Van Buren, Nixon, and George H. W. Bush.
      • 5 vice presidents succeeded to the presidency but were never elected: Tyler, Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Arthur, and Ford.
      • 4 vice presidents succeeded to the presidency and then were subsequently elected: Theodore Roosevelt, Coolidge, Truman, and Lyndon Johnson.
  • Biden is the 16th president to have served in the U.S. Senate. Biden has, by far, the longest career in high elected office of any new president, totaling 44 years: 36 as a U.S. Senator from Delaware, and 8 as Vice President.
    • To date, the longest pre-presidential career belonged to James Buchanan, whose 28-year pre-presidential career includes 10 years in the U.S. House, 10 years in the U.S. Senate, 4 years as secretary of state, and diplomatic appointments to Russia and the United Kingdom.
    • Biden’s 36 years in the Senate is more than any other president, either in the Senate or in either house of Congress. The record for congressional service is Ford, with nearly 25 years (all in the U.S. House). The record for Senate service is Lyndon Johnson, with 12 years.
    • Biden is the 2nd former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to become president, following Buchanan. Two others, Henry Clay and John Kerry, had been nominated for president. He is also the 2nd former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to become president, following Van Buren.
  • Biden was elected president on his third try, having fallen short in bids for the Democratic nomination in 1988 and 2008. He is the 2nd president to reach the White House after having lost two previous bids, following Reagan, who had sought the nomination in 1968 and 1976 before winning in 1980.
  • President Trump has announced that he will not attend Biden’s inauguration on January 20, 2021. This will be the 5th time that an outgoing president has declined to attend the inauguration of an elected successor. The others were: John Adams (the inauguration of Thomas Jefferson), John Quincy Adams (inauguration of Andrew Jackson), Martin Van Buren (inauguration of William Henry Harrison) and Andrew Johnson (inauguration of Ulysses S. Grant).
    • This does not include Richard Nixon, who departed the White House after his resignation and shortly before Gerald Ford was sworn in to succeed him. It also, obviously, does not include the eight presidents who died in office.
  • Biden earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Delaware and his law degree from Syracuse. He is the 1st president to be a graduate of either.
    • Surprisingly few presidents are graduates of state universities. Biden, a Delaware “Blue Hen,” joins James K. Polk (University of North Carolina), Lyndon Johnson (Southwest State Teachers College, today Texas State University), and Gerald R. Ford (University of Michigan).
  • Biden is the 16th Democrat to be president (including Andrew Johnson, who was elected on a “National Union” ticket with Republican Abraham Lincoln).
    • There have been 19 Republicans, 4 Democratic-Republicans, 4 Whigs, 1 Federalist, and George Washington, who was not a member of any party.
    • Counting to the end of President Trump’s current term, Republicans and Democrats have each held the White House for 92 years. Democratic-Republican presidents served for 28 years; Whigs, 8 years; Federalist John Adams, 4 years. George Washington, not a member of a party, was president for 8 years.
  • Biden will take office with five of his predecessors living: Carter, Clinton, George W. Bush, Obama, and Trump. This would be tied for the most ever, with Lincoln, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Trump.
  • Biden’s election also means that the United States still has never had four consecutive two-term presidencies. The country has twice had three consecutive two-term presidencies: Jefferson-Madison-Monroe from 1801-25, and Clinton-Bush-Obama from 1993-2017.
  • Biden is the 11th president to defeat an incumbent, following Jefferson (who defeated John Adams), Jackson (John Quincy Adams), William H. Harrison (Van Buren), Benjamin Harrison (Cleveland), Cleveland (Benjamin Harrison), Wilson (Taft), Franklin D. Roosevelt (Hoover), Carter (Ford), Reagan (Carter), and Clinton (George H. W. Bush).
    • Ohio is a traditional bellwether; it last supported the losing ticket in 1960, when it voted for Nixon against Kennedy. Biden’s win ends that streak, as Ohio cast its electoral votes for President Trump.
  • Biden is the 6th president born in the month of November, joining Polk, Harding, Garfield, Pierce and Taylor.
    • November ties October as being the birth month of the most presidents.
    • Biden is the 6th Scorpio to be president.
  • Biden was born in 1942, making him a member of the “Silent Generation” that came between the WWII generation and the “Baby Boomers.” The last four presidents were all Baby Boomers, and until Biden’s candidacy it seemed likely that the “Silent Generation,” which also included presidential nominees John Kerry and John McCain, would fail to produce a president.
  • Biden is the first president to have the first name “Joseph,” and (not surprisingly) the first to have the middle name “Robinette.” He also, obviously, is the first to have the last name “Biden.”
    • Biden is the 11th president to be a “junior,” although many stopped using it later in life. He follows John Adams, Madison, Tyler, Buchanan, McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, Coolidge, Ford, Carter, and Obama. (Bill Clinton’s name at birth was “William Jefferson Blythe III,” making him the only “III” president. He changed his name from “Blythe” to his stepfather’s “Clinton.”)
    • “Robinette” was Biden’s paternal grandmother’s maiden name. Biden will be the 2nd president to have his paternal grandmother’s maiden name as a middle name, following George Walker Bush (43).
      • Many presidents have, like Biden’s father, had his mother’s maiden name as a middle name: James Knox Polk, Ulysses Simpson Grant (although his name is a longer story), Rutherford Birchard Hayes, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Lyndon Baines Johnson, Richard Milhous Nixon, and Ronald Wilson Reagan. George Herbert Walker Bush (41) had two middle names, one of which (Walker), was his mother’s maiden name.
  • Biden is notable for two ways in which he is not historic. Like every president to date, Biden is male and, like every president except Obama, he is of only European ancestry.

Jill Jacobs Biden and the Biden family

  • Biden is the 6th president to have been a widower. His first wife, Neilia Hunter Biden, died in 1972 in an automobile accident. Jefferson, Jackson, Van Buren, Arthur, and Theodore Roosevelt had all lost their wives prior to becoming president. Biden joins Theodore Roosevelt as the second widowed president to have remarried prior to entering the White House.
    • Two presidents – Tyler and Wilson – were widowed and remarried while they were president.
  • Jill Biden is the 1st First Lady to be born in New Jersey.
  • The Biden marriage is also the second for Jill; she was previously married for five years to Bill Stevenson and divorced in 1975. She is the 4th First Lady to have been previously married and divorced, following Rachel Jackson, Florence Harding and Betty Ford.
  • Biden is the oldest of four siblings. He is the 3rd president of whom that is true, following Ford and Carter.
    • He is the 15th president to be the oldest child, following John Adams, Madison, Monroe, Polk, Grant, Harding, Coolidge, Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Ford, Carter, Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama.
    • He is the 5th president to come from a family of four siblings, following Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson, Ford, and Carter.
  • Biden’s parents are both deceased. Eighteen presidents had at least one parent living at the time of his inauguration.
  • Biden has four children: two sons and two daughters (one of whom died as an infant in the same automobile accident that killed his first wife).  Seven previous presidents had four children:  John Quincy Adams, Van Buren, Lincoln, Grant, Ford, Carter, and Reagan.  To date, Reagan is the only president to have had two sons and two daughters.

Kamala Harris

  • Harris will be the 49th Vice President of the United States.
  • Harris will be the 1st woman to serve as vice president.
    • She is the 4th woman to appear on a national ticket, following Geraldine Ferraro and Sarah Palin (who were also nominated for vice president) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (who was nominated for president).
    • Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, will be the nation’s first “Second Gentleman.” He is also the first Jewish-American to be the spouse of a vice president.
  • Harris’ father was a Jamaican immigrant and her mother was an Indian immigrant. She is the 1st vice president to be African-American and the 1st to be Asian-American.
    • She is the 2nd African-American to appear on a national ticket, following Barack Obama.
    • To date, the only member of a racial minority to be vice president is Charles Curtis, who was vice president in the Herbert Hoover administration. Curtis was an enrolled member of the Kaw Nation and was 3/8 Native American.
  • Harris is the 2nd vice president to have been born in California, joining Richard Nixon (who served with Eisenhower). Harris will also follow Nixon as the only 2nd Vice President who was a California resident at the time of election as vice president.
    • Remarkably, Harris is the first person to appear on the Democratic national ticket who was from west of Texas at the time. (Obama was originally from Hawaii but was elected from Illinois).
  • Harris is a graduate of Howard University, a historically black university in Washington, DC; and the University of California, Hastings College of Law. She is the first graduate of either to serve as vice president.
  • As a U.S. Senator, Harris is the 8th consecutive vice president to have served in Congress. The most recent to lack congressional service was Nelson Rockefeller, who had served as Governor of New York.
    • Harris is the 23rd vice president to have served in the U.S. Senate.