Now that Hillary Clinton, the junior senator from New York, has been officially named by President-Elect Obama as the Secretary of State-designee, there’s been speculation that New York Governor David Paterson might name her husband, Ex-President Bill Clinton, to take over her Senate seat. Apparently, Bill has denied any interest in taking his wife’s seat. But the speculation got me wondering whether any ex-presidents had indeed continued to serve in an official capacity in one of the other branches of our government.
In fact, one ex-president has gone on to serve in the Senate. Andrew Johnson, the seventeenth president, who succeeded to the presidency after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, had previously served five terms in the House, one term as governor of Tennessee, and was a U.S. Senator from Tennessee when the Civil War broke out. Impeached on three counts for violating the controversial Tenure of Office Act, which forbade the president from dismissing certain appointees without the approval of the Senate, Johnson was acquitted by one vote on each count.
Johnson served out Lincoln’s term, but failed to secure the Republican party’s nomination for the presidency in 1869. After failing in bids for re-election to the Senate in 1869 and to the House in 1872, he was finally re-elected to the Senate in 1874. He served from March 4, 1875 until July 31, 1875, when he suffered a stroke and died. He is the only former President to serve in the Senate after his presidency.
John Quincy Adams, the sixth president, was subsequently elected by the people of Massachusetts to serve in the House of Representatives, which he did for the last seventeen years of his life. And William Howard Taft, the twenty-seventh president, was named Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by Warren Harding in 1921 and served in that capacity until his death in 1930. According to Taft’s biography on whitehouse.gov, Taft thought of the justiceship as his greatest honor: “I don’t remember
that I ever was President.”
Perhaps that was because Taft was the only candidate for a second presidential term to finish third in the election!
It’s worth noting that Bill Clinton already has one thing in common with Andrew Johnson: they are the only two presidents to have been impeached.