The Quick 10: The Careers of 10 Presidential Kids

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We know George W. followed in his dad's footsteps, and we know John Quincy Adams did the same. But what did children of other Presidents end up doing? Some of them are pretty predictable: Politicians, lawyers, etc. But some of them are quite surprising, and a strange number of them have become novelists. I'm playing fast and loose with the "10" theme, by the way. Hope you guys don't mind.

adams1 and 2. Charles Francis Adams, one of John Quincy's sons, made his own bid for the Presidency. Well, the Vice-Presidency. That had to be a terrible burden "“ if your grandpa and your dad were both Presidents of the United States, I imagine it's pretty much expected that you give it a go as well. In 1848, he unsuccessfully ran for V.P. as a member of the Free Soil Party with future President Martin Van Buren as President. But I'd say he was pretty successful, even if he wasn't the third Adams to be President: he graduated from Harvard, studied law with Daniel Webster, he was a member of the House of Representatives, served in the state senate, founded and edited the Boston Whig journal, was an ambassador for Abraham Lincoln, was offered the position of Harvard President (he declined), and constructed the first-ever presidential library to honor his dear old dad. JQA had two other sons: John II we don't know much about, but George Washington Adams also graduated from Harvard and was elected to the House of Representatives. However, it's possible that the stress was too much "“ he disappeared off of a boat in the Long Island Sound in 1829; his body was found about six weeks later. Most historians believe it was a suicide.

3 and 4. Harry "Hal" Garfield was only 17 when he watched his dad get gunned down by Charles Guiteau "“ even worse, his little brother was only 15.

Both brothers went on to be very successful, though "“ Hal became a law professor and was eventually named the eighth president of Williams College. He also taught at Princeton, where he made friends with Woodrow Wilson, pre-Presidency. When Wilson became President, he asked Hal to run the Federal Fuel Administration. Hal's brother, James Rudolph, studied law at Columbia, then ran a law firm with Hal. James was in the Ohio State Senate for three years, and served as a member of Teddy Roosevelt's Cabinet as Secretary of the Interior.

alice5. Speaking of which, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Teddy's oldest daughter and only child by his first wife, is totally fascinating. At least, I think so. Alice was named after her mom, and Teddy was so heartbroken at her death that he refused to call his daughter Alice. She went by Baby Lee (her middle name). He also nicknamed her "Mousiekins" in a letter to his sister. But that's neither here nor there. As an adult, she helped William Howard Taft (Teddy's Secretary of War) in a diplomatic trip to Japan. On the boat ride over, Alice jumped into the ship's pool with all of her clothes on and managed to convince a Congressman to do the same. While married to Congressman Nick Longworth, Alice had an affair with Senator William Borah. Alice later admitted Borah was the father of her daughter, Paulina. After the Tafts took over the White House, Alice would openly heckle Nellie Taft at White House dinners and other social events. Eventually, the Tafts banned her from the residence altogether. The Wilson Administration also banned her when she made a dirty joke about the President. During the Great Depression, Alice found herself dealing with the hard times just like everyone else. To make ends meet, she appeared as the model in tobacco ads and published her autobiography (which I think I'm going to have to get). She remained a staple in Washington until her death in 1980.

6, 7, and 8. The Taft children were also quite accomplished. The only daughter, named Helen, after her mother, was a highly accomplished academic. She was a professor at Bryn Mawr for 40 years. She was also an avid suffragist. Her brother, Charles Phelps Taft (Mr. Cincinnati), was the Mayor of Cincinnati from 1955-1957, but prior to that, he held various positions in the FDR Administration. Robert Taft became a U.S. Senator. In fact, in 1957, a Senate committee led by JFK named Robert Taft one of the five best Senators in history.

9. Elliott Roosevelt was the son of FDR and Eleanor. He was a bombardier in the United States Army Air Forces in WWII, but after that, he was kind of all over the place. He owned a radio station, he tried ranching, he was the mayor of Miami Beach for one term, and he wrote a mystery series featuring his mother as the main character. He was married five times and had five children and four stepchildren who took the Roosevelt name.

meg10. Oddly, Margaret Truman is another Presidential child who made a living writing mysteries as an adult. I suppose it makes sense "“ they probably have insights that the rest of us don't. Anyway, Margaret was on track to be a singer for a while in the late 1940s and early 50s. After one of her vocal recitals was aired on the radio, a critic at the Washington Post said she was very pretty, but couldn't hold a tune. President Truman wrote the critic a letter and said that if the two of them ever met, the critic was going to need "a new nose and plenty of beefsteak and perhaps a supporter below." After she stopped singing in the mid 50s, she started writing "“ she wrote biographies about both of her parents, wrote books on the First Ladies and First Pets and wrote a bunch of murder mysteries set in Washington, D.C.

11 and 12. Steven Meigs Ford, Gerald and Betty's youngest son, is an actor. He was actually cast in the original Grease as Tom Chisum, Lorenzo Lamas' character, but dropped out. He was on The Young and the Restless from 1981 to 1987 and has since been in movies such as Armageddon, Heat, and When Harry Met Sally. His sister, Susan, is another writer: in 2002, she wrote Double Exposure: A First Daughter Mystery. Before that, she was a photojournalist for the AP, Newsweek, Money, Ladies Home Journal and several newspapers. She also had another career: her first marriage was to one of her dad's Secret Service agents and they ran a security company in Washington for a while.

December 2, 2008 - 10:24am
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