From 1961 to 1993 the Navy could boast veterans in the nation’s highest office, with the exception of Army veteran Ronald Reagan’s 8-year term of 1981-89. John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon,
Gerald R. Ford, and James E. “Jimmy” Carter, George H.W. Bush all previously served their nation wearing Navy blue.
Interestingly, of the presidents who served between ’61 and ’93, only Reagan held office for two full terms:
- Ford, Carter and Bush were single-term presidents;
- Kennedy was assassinated after 1,000 days in office;
- Johnson was elected once and chose not to seek a second term after finishing Kennedy’s term for a total of 5 years, 2 months, and
- While Nixon was elected twice, he served less than 18 months into his second term before resigning to avoid almost certain impeachment over his role in the Watergate scandal.
Of the six presidents with sea service, five have had ships named after them: Kennedy (aircraft carrier CVA 67 as well as CVN 79 which has yet to begin construction), Johnson (Zumwalt-class destroyer PCU DDG-1002), Ford (aircraft carrier PCU CVN 78), Carter (submarine SSN 23), and Bush (aircraft carrier CVN 77).
Nixon joins the remaining 20 presidents who have not had ships named after them. Our nation’s first President, for whom President’s Day was originally named, has a record-holding eight ships named Washington, with four between 1775-76, one each in 1798 and 1814, followed by the ballistic nuclear submarine (SSBN 598), decommissioned in 1985, and aircraft carrier CVN 73 commissioned in 1992.
Abraham Lincoln pales in comparison with just three ships: a former German steamer turned transport ship (President Lincoln 1917-18), one sub (SSBN 602), decommissioned in 1981, and Nimitz-class supercarrier (CVN 72), commissioned in 1989.
To learn more about U.S. Navy history, please go to the Naval History and Heritage Command website: www.history.navy.mil/.