The newest edition of my ongoing series, The Complete Book of Presidential Inaugural Speeches, is now available. The book contains the texts of all 60 inauguration day speeches given by the presidents, going back to George Washington’s first, in 1789. In addition, each speech is supplemented by my notes on the election that brought that president to office, and commentary on the day of the speech itself. The book is available in both trade paperback and case laminate (hardcover) versions.
This year, for the first time, I’m also offering an oddball special edition of the book. Owing to a perceived public demand, a separate, “Trump-less Edition” is available. This book, for those who’d rather do their best to forget the 2017–2021 presidential term, contains 59 inaugural speeches and notes, and purposely omits reference to the 45th presidential administration.
Today, we inaugurated a new president. Joseph Robinette “Joe” Biden, Jr., is now the 46th president (the 45th person to hold the office, since Grover Cleveland counts twice). With the coming of a new President (and Vice President, and First Lady) it seems a good time to look at my books and see what needs to be updated.
I’ll start with the first book, The Presidential Book of Lists, and start with an oddity in that.
Chapter 7: Most Common Presidential First Names
The list starts with James, John, William, and George. The US Census Bureau lists the ten most common male first names: James, John, Robert, Michael, William, David, Richard, Charles, Joseph, Thomas. Joseph, Joe, is the ninth most common male first name. But Joe Biden is the first President to be called Joe or Joseph, first or middle name.
Chapter 8: Most Popular States Where Presidents Were Born
Joe Biden is the second President born in Pennsylvania (after James Buchanan, 1857-61). Thus, Pennsylvania is now tied for fifth place (the birth state of two Presidents) with North Carolina, Vermont, and Texas.
Chapter 13: Presidents Who Shared Birthdays
Joe Biden was born on November 20, 1942. He doesn’t share his birthday with any other Presidents, but he was born in a very busy week. James Garfield was born November 19, 1831. Franklin Pierce was born November 23, 1804, and Zachary Taylor was born November 24, 1784.
Chapter 17: Presidents Who Were Older than the Greatest Number of Their Predecessors
Ronald Reagan had held the top spot on this list solo until today. Reagan was older than four of his predecessors: John Kennedy, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter. Biden, too, is older than four of his predecessors: Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump (who himself was tied for second on the list, being older than three of his predecessors).
Chapter 19: Presidents Who Had the Most Living Predecessors
Biden joins the top of the list, with five: Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump. Already on top of that list are Abraham Lincoln, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump.
Chapter 33: The Five Presidents Who Outlived Their Wives the Longest
Joe Biden is now number one on this list. His first wife, Neilia Hunter Biden, died in a car crash in December 1972, more than 48 years ago. He remarried five years later, to the current First Lady, Dr. Jill Biden. Now #2 on the list is Thomas Jefferson, who outlived Martha (and remained unmarried) by almost 44 years. Martin Van Buren is now in third place, having outlived Hannah by 43 and a half years. And at #4 is Theodore Roosevelt, who outlived Alice by almost 35 years. Like Biden, TR remarried a few years after the death of his first wife, and had more children with her.
Chapter 34: The Six Presidents Who Had More Than One Wife
When I wrote the book, five Presidents had been widowed and remarried, and one—Ronald Reagan—was divorced and remarried. Since then, we’ve had Donald Trump, the only President to have married three times (twice divorced), and now Joe Biden is the sixth President to have been widowed once and then remarried.
Chapter 46: Presidents Who Had All Their Siblings Live to See Them Take Office
Joe Biden is now number 10 on this list. He is the eldest of four siblings, including his sister Valerie and brothers Frank and Jim.
Chapter 57: Vice Presidents Who Were Elected President
Joe Biden joins the list of now ten Vice Presidents who were elected President. He is only the second to retire from the Vice Presidency and then return to the political scene to later be elected President, after Richard Nixon (Vice President 1953-61; President 1969-74).
Chapter 75: The Five Oldest Presidents
When I wrote the book, Ronald Reagan was the oldest when counting from their age at inauguration (he was 17 days shy of his 70th birthday). Reagan was followed by William Henry Harrison, James Buchanan, and George H.W. Bush. Counting from their age when they left office, the list was Reagan, then Dwight Eisenhower, Buchanan, and Bush. When Donald Trump took office, he was nearly eight months older than Reagan had been at inauguration. He served one term, and left office at the age of 74 years and 7 months. Joe Biden takes complete control of this list: he is older on inauguration day than Reagan was when he left office: 78 years and 61 days old.
Chapter 86: Presidents Defeated In Their Bids for Re-election
To the twelve who were on this list—from John Adams to George H.W. Bush—we now add Donald Trump.
As Joe Biden was sworn in, his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, becomes First Lady: the most consuming unpaid job in the administration.
She, too, will cause me to update Ranking the First Ladies.
Chapter 5: The Most Common Names of First Ladies
Like her husband, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden is the first First Lady to have her first name. But while her husband’s name is the ninth most common in the general population, hers is #159.
Chapter 6: The Most Popular States for First Ladies to be Born
Jill Biden is the third First Lady to be born in New Jersey, elevating that state into a three-way tie for fourth place with Missouri and Illinois.
Chapter 10: First Ladies Who Shared Birthdays
Jill Biden was born on June 3, 1951. She doesn’t share her birthday with any other First Lady, but Martha Washington and Helen Taft were both born on June 2 (1731 and 1861).
Chapter 22: First Ladies Who Were College Graduates
Dr. Jill Biden is the 14th First Lady with a college degree. But she went farther… much farther. Pat Nixon and Laura Bush continued on to earn masters degrees. Hillary Clinton and Michelle Obama earned JD degrees, and worked as lawyers. Jill Biden earned a bachelors degree, two masters, and, in 2007, a doctorate of education.
Chapter 24: The Five Oldest First Ladies
Based on their age when their husbands took office, the list was topped by Anna Harrison, who was 65 years 222 days old when William Henry Harrison became President. Based on their age when they moved out of the White House, Bess Truman was three weeks shy of her 68th birthday, followed by Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan. Jill Biden is 69 years 231 days old today, and thus, #1.
Chapter 26: The First Ladies Who Were the Greatest Number of Years Older Than Their Predecessors
Jill Biden leaps to number 2 on this list. She is 18 years 327 days older than her predecessor, Melania Trump (President Trump’s third wife, she is 24 years younger than her husband). Caroline Harrison, in 1889, was 31 years 293 days older than France Cleveland, who married President Grover Cleveland during his first term, when she was 21.
Chapter 41: The Presidential Wives Who Missed Their Husbands’ Presidencies
Joe Biden’s first wife, Neilia Hunter Biden, who was born in 1942, died in a car crash in December 1972, six years after marrying Joe. She is the sixth woman to have died before her husband became President.
Chapter 47: The First Ladies Who Had All Their Siblings Live to See Them Become First Lady
Jill Biden is the oldest of five sisters. She is the ninth First Lady to have all her siblings alive when she became First Lady.
Which brings us to my third book, Ranking the Vice Presidents. And Kamala Harris.
Sure, she’s the first woman to be Vice President. Sure, she’s only the second Vice President to be in a long-term relationship with a man (see William R.D. King). Sure, she’s the second Vice President of non-European heritage (see Charles Curtis). Sure, she’s the first Vice President to use a different last name than her spouse (Douglas Craig Emhoff, who is seven days older than she is).
But those are all the obvious differences. Let’s see what her inauguration does to modify my book. (Surprisingly, the answer is “not too much.” In other words, other than physical characteristics, Kamala Harris looks pretty much like her predecessors: age, family, work experience, and so on.)
Chapter 5. The Tallest and Shortest Vice Presidents
Kamala Harris is now the shortest Vice President. She’s 5’2″ tall. John Adams, Martin Van Buren, and Hubert Humphrey were all 5’6″.
Chapter 6. The Most Common Vice Presidential First Names
Yeah, this one’s a gimmee for anyone who has been paying attention. No previous Vice Presidents have been named Kamala. On the US Census Bureau list of most common first names, Kamala ranks #3,559, with about 1,518 people sharing that name. (For comparison, #1 on the list is Mary, which adorns 3,991,060 people.)
Chapter 7. The Most Popular States for Vice Presidents to be Born
Kamala Harris is the second Vice President born in California (joining Richard Nixon).
Chapter 11. The Vice Presidents Who Shared Birthdays
Kamala Harris was born October 20, 1964, so she doesn’t share a birthday with any of her predecessors. But she was born during a popular week. Richard M. Johnson (1837-41) was born October 17, 1780. Adlai Stevenson (1893-97) was born October 23, 1835. James Sherman (1909-12) was born October 24, 1855. And Theodore Roosevelt (1901) was born October 27, 1858.
However, October 20, 1964, was the day former President Herbert Hoover died, at the age of 90, 31 years after he retired from the Presidency.
Chapter 17. The Vice Presidents Who Had the Greatest Number of Living Predecessors
Kamala Harris joins Al Gore (1993-2001) at the top of the list, with six living former Vice Presidents: Walter Mondale (1977-81), Dan Quayle (1989-93), Al Gore (1993-2001), Dick Cheney (2001-09), Joe Biden (2009-17), and Mike Pence (2017-21).
Chapter 23. The Vice Presidents Who Had the Fewest Children
Kamala Harris is the fourth Vice President to have no natural children, joining William King, William Wheeler, and Thomas Marshall.