Which Father and Son Have Been Presidents?
In the country’s history, only two father-son duos have served as President. Both John Adams and John Quincy Adams succeeded other presidents, and both occupied the White House for more than one term.
Teachers can use these articles to help students understand the similarities and differences between fathers and sons who served as President. Discussions might include comparisons of the men’s careers, colleges, marriages, families, pets and travels.
John Adams was one of America’s earliest Founding Fathers and the first president to serve more than one term. He was a key figure in the “taxation without representation” debates and chaired the Constitutional Convention.
A strong student, Adams graduated from dame school and Latin school before attending Harvard College. He was an active member of the Massachusetts legislature and served as a U.S. ambassador to the Netherlands and France. He also practiced law.
After a return to Boston in 1778, he was sent to Europe as part of a commission to arrange treaties for commerce with several European countries. He also helped draft the state constitution of Massachusetts.
Adams was defeated for a second term by Thomas Jefferson and died on July 4, 1826, the fiftieth anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. He was succeeded by his son, John Quincy Adams. It is the only time that a father and his son have both held the office of president.
John Quincy Adams
The son of President John Adams, John Quincy Adams was a diplomat, lawyer, historian, senator and diarist. He is considered one of the most accomplished Secretaries of State in American history.
As a young man, Adams served as secretary and translator for his father in Europe. After a stint in the Massachusetts state Senate and the U.S. Senate, Adams rejoined diplomatic service under President James Madison. He helped negotiate the pact that ended the War of 1812 and later served as the U.S. ambassador to Russia.
In a contentious election in 1824, stodgy New Englander Adams lost to the popular Andrew Jackson. But, in a decision known as “The Corrupt Bargain,” the House of Representatives chose Adams over Jackson. He served only one term as president, but he is credited with shaping the Monroe Doctrine and advocating large federal projects such as road construction, river widening, educational institutions and a national observatory. He died in 1848.
George Herbert Walker Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st president of the United States, came from a family with a long history in public service. His parents were Prescott Sheldon Bush, a banker and investment senator from Connecticut, and Dorothy Walker Bush, daughter of a St. Louis family that established the annual amateur golf tournament known as the Walker Cup.
He graduated from Phillips Academy Andover in 1942 and enlisted in the Navy. He served as a torpedo bomber pilot on aircraft carriers in the Pacific during World War II, flying fifty-eight combat missions. On one occasion his plane was shot down and he had to bail out over the ocean; he was rescued by a submarine.
After two unsuccessful Senate campaigns, Bush became a congressman from Texas in 1966. He would go on to hold a series of administrative posts, including chairman of the Republican National Committee, U.S. ambassador to China, and director of the CIA.
George W. Bush
George Herbert Walker Bush grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, and graduated from Yale with honors. He served as a naval pilot in World War II, flying torpedo bombers. Two of his crew members were killed in action, and he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Then the family moved to Midland, Texas, where his father entered the oil business. Eventually the younger Bush became interested in politics and went to work as a representative for a safe, conservative district in Congress. He twice ran for the Senate but was unsuccessful. He also served in high-ranking positions, including ambassador to the United Nations, chairman of the Republican National Committee, and chief of the U. S. Liaison Office in the People’s Republic of China.
In 1988 his father mounted a run for the presidency. As campaign manager, the younger Bush relied on his father as a sounding board and advisor. Then the elder Bush retired and allowed his son to become president.