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Want to be president? Think you chose the right occupation or profession to become the leader of the free world? What path did our past presidents choose that lead them to the White House? While in reality every president has been a professional politician, each had a job before becoming president. How does yours stack up against theirs?
Your best bet to becoming president is to be vice-president first, or a lawyer or state governor. Those have been the most common occupations of the presidents at the time of their elections. Through forty-two presidential administrations the country has been led by the great, near-great and barely-great. They have been of different political beliefs, Whig, Federalist, Republican and Democrat. Tall, short, lean or stout, every president has shared one thing in common; they were all engaged in some occupation before becoming president.

Thirteen men served as vice-president before becoming the Chief Executive. John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren and George Bush succeeded by election to the presidency. John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester A. Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, Harry S Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson succeeded to the office upon the death of their predecessors. Richard Nixon was the only vice-president to become president without directly succeeding his predecessor. Gerald Ford was the only vice-president to take the Oval Office upon the resignation of a president, Richard M. Nixon.

By far the most popular occupation of presidents has been the law. Twenty-four presidents were attorneys. Eleven were actively engaged in practicing law at the time of their elections; John Tyler, James K. Polk, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland (between his first and second terms), William H. Taft, and Richard M. Nixon (between being vice-president and his election).

Ten were state governors (or retired governors) prior to election; Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio, Grover Cleveland of New York, William McKinley of Ohio, Theodore Roosevelt of New York, Woodrow Wilson of New Jersey, Franklin Delano Roosevelt of New York, James E. Carter of Georgia, Ronald Reagan of California and William Jefferson Clinton of Arkansas.

James Madison, James Monroe and John Quincy Adams were Secretaries of State when nominated. Both William Howard Taft (Secretary of War) and Herbert Hoover (Secretary of Commerce) resigned Cabinet posts to campaign for office.

Presidential candidates are famous for aligning themselves with America's farmers as representing the backbone of the nation. But only four Presidents were actively engaged in farming (or planting) at the time of their election. The peanut farmer, James E. Carter, can stand proudly beside those other notable farmer-planters Andrew Jackson, William Henry Harrison and George Washington.

While two Senators moved directly from the Senate to the White House (Warren G. Harding and John F. Kennedy), two Senators served first as vice-presidents; Harry S. Truman and Lyndon B. Johnson. Only one Congressman ever made the leap directly from the House to the vice-presidency and then into the presidency; Gerald Ford. James Garfield, the only ordained minister to serve in the Oval Office, was elected to the Senate at the same time he was elected President. He chose to accept the latter position and resigned the Senate before being inaugurated. Benjamin Harrison had been defeated in his senatorial re-election bid two years before his Presidency.

Of the four who were generals prior to their election, only Zachary Taylor passed directly from being in the army to becoming Commander-in-Chief. General Grant served as acting secretary of war under Andrew Johnson prior to Johnson's impeachment trial. Andrew Johnson was a commissioned brigadier general of U. S. Volunteers, when Lincoln appointed him military governor of Tennessee. He still held that post in 1864 when chosen as Lincoln's running mate. General Eisenhower, Commanding General of Allied Forces in Europe during World War Two, was president of Columbia University when nominated for president in 1952. George Washington, Commanding General of the Colonial Forces during the Revolutionary War, was chancellor of William and Mary College when chosen as our first President.

Both James Garfield and James Buchanan were in civil service prior to their elections as president. Buchanan had been Minister to Great Britain and Garfield was serving on several presidential commissions.

From farmer to Minister of State, all these occupations do have one thing in common. Each is concerned with public service or public welfare. So if you would be Presidential Timber, look to public service as your guide.