If you’re wondering who the most recent presidents in the United States were without a college degree, Millard Fillmore was the one. He had no college education but fell in love with a teacher when he was a teenager and married her. He then went on to become a lawyer.
Woodrow Wilson was born in Staunton, Virginia, the third of four children. He had dyslexia and never learned to read quickly, but this did not stop him from developing a love of literature and politics. After graduating from Princeton University, he studied law at the College of New Jersey and then went on to Harvard Law School. He then became president of Princeton University in 1902.
After serving as Princeton’s president, Wilson pursued a progressive political agenda while in office. He was nominated for president by the Democratic Party in 1912. Wilson’s New Freedom program emphasized state and individual rights, and his campaign was based on his liberal vision of the American economy. His campaign was a success, and he won the election with a 42 percent popular vote, becoming the country’s 28th president.
Wilson’s lack of formal education did not prevent him from becoming president, and in fact his lack of formal education was an advantage. His father had been a Presbyterian minister, and he was able to cite the biblical passages that guided his life and actions. His marriage to Ellen Louise Axson was happy and comfortable, but it was marred by bouts of depression. After Ellen’s death in 1914, Wilson courted and married Edith Bolling Galt. The two were married in December of 1915.
Wilson’s first term was marred by two major issues. The first was the war in Europe, which prompted Wilson to insist that the United States remain neutral. During the war, Britain seized American cargoes and German submarines sank ships carrying food. The Lusitania sinking, which killed 1,200 people, including 126 Americans, changed the popular opinion in the U.S.; however, Wilson remained cautious and demanded that Germany not sink civilian ships without warning.
While there are no formal educational requirements for the presidency, the majority of presidents have completed college. Over half of them have earned a bachelor’s degree and 32% have an advanced degree. There are, however, nine presidents who didn’t go to college, including George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
In contrast, Andrew Johnson did not go to college and had no higher education. He was sent to work as an apprentice to a tailor when he was ten. While there, a fellow employee taught him basic reading and writing skills. He also developed his speech skills during his apprenticeship.
Presidents who did not earn a college degree included James Monroe, the fifth president and a member of the House of Representatives. He attended William & Mary College, but did not earn a degree. The sixth president, Martin Van Buren, did not complete a college degree. In addition, William Henry Harrison attended the University of Pennsylvania Law School and was elected president only after completing a year of college. The nation’s eighth president, Andrew Jackson, did not finish college, and his successor, Grover Cleveland, attended Albany Law School, but did not earn a degree.
Although George Washington did not earn a college degree, he did earn a surveyor’s license at the College of William and Mary. His formal education was interrupted by his father’s death. However, Washington appreciated the value of formal education so much that he left money to help promote formal education. Interestingly, William and Mary is the fifth most popular college for presidents in history, with four presidents having obtained degrees from the school. He also received an Honorary Doctor of Laws from Harvard and Yale.
Presidents without a college degree are still quite rare in American history. While a college degree may make it easier to secure a job in the government, it is by no means necessary. In fact, the Constitution does not specify education requirements for the presidency. Those who have a bachelor’s degree are more likely to be successful and well-connected than those who don’t.
According to the U.S. Constitution, the president must be a natural-born citizen of the United States. As a lawyer, McKinley practiced law in Ohio and became a member of the Republican Party. In 1877, he won a seat in the United States House of Representatives, where he served as chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and helped pass the McKinley Tariff of 1890. McKinley’s political career began in 1877, when he was elected to the Ohio 17th district. He served in the House of Representatives until 1891, when he lost his reelection bid.
The first president without a college degree was James Monroe. The second president without a college degree was William McKinley. In addition to leading the United States during the Spanish-American War, McKinley also led the country in a series of international conflicts and attempted to lead the Republican Party to Progressivism. He proposed more regulation of the business industry and also a constitutional amendment to tax the nation’s income. Unfortunately, he was defeated in his bid for a second term, and the country hasn’t been the same since.
During his first term, McKinley’s presidency was dominated by foreign policy. Cuba’s revolution caused an outcry in the United States and many people objected to the way Spain was treating the Cuban people. Spain was suppressing a rebellion in Cuba at the time and had confined Cubans to prison camps. The Yellow Press reported these atrocities to the American people, and many believed that the United States could not allow the subjugation of its citizens.
William McKinley graduated from law school in Albany, New York in 1867. He then returned to Ohio to start a law practice in Canton, Ohio. He married his wife, Ida Saxton, in 1871. In 1877, he ran as a Republican for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. His fast wit helped him gain a seat and become chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. McKinley supported tariffs on imported goods.
While it may not be easy to imagine a president without a college degree, the past has a few examples. For example, the first president, George Washington, did not have a college degree, nor did Abraham Lincoln. In fact, neither of them even had a bachelor’s degree. Other presidents who never went to college include Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren, Andrew Johnson, and Grover Cleveland. Even though most of these people didn’t have a college degree, they were all well-educated and had the knowledge they needed to lead the country.
While most of our presidents have a college degree, they might not have a law degree or even a bachelor’s degree. Some of them did, however, attend graduate schools or law schools. In addition to GW Bush, George H.W. Bush earned an honorary degree from Dartmouth in 1948. In fact, he almost didn’t make it to the commencement ceremony, according to Peter Robinson ’79.
In 2004, Bush was re-elected as president of the United States, defeating Democrat John Kerry. During his second term, he worked to enact numerous free trade agreements and appointed John Roberts and Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. He also sought major changes to immigration and Social Security laws. Bush was also criticized for his handling of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans. Later, he dismissed a number of U.S. attorneys in an effort to avoid a lawsuit. As a result, Democrats regained control of Congress in 2006, and Bush launched the surge in troops to Iraq in January 2007.
In 1968, Bush earned a history degree and joined the National Guard. However, he did not serve overseas during the Vietnam War. After he returned to the United States, he earned a degree in business from Harvard Business School. He married Laura Welch and entered politics in 1978.
Before becoming President, Reagan served as Governor of California. As a Governor, he shocked liberal Democrats, alienated the far right, and won election on a platform of reduced government and less regulation. His first term was marked by an aggressive foreign policy, and he spoke out against the proliferation of communist and socialist movements throughout the world. He also fought against excessive government spending and overregulation. He was a member of the Democratic Party during his political career, but switched to the Republican Party in the early 1960s.
Throughout the history of the United States, eight presidents have been elected without a college degree. President Grover Cleveland is the only exception. Other presidents did attend college before becoming president, but they had different educational backgrounds. Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Woodrow Wilson attended college before becoming president. Others attended colleges prior to being elected president, including William Howard Taft, who was the dean of the University of Cincinnati Law School. Some presidents have made it a point to pursue a postgraduate education in politics.
Despite his lack of a college degree, Reagan had a long history in the entertainment industry. As president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1947 to 1952, he fought against communist infiltration in the union. He also crossed picket lines to stop violent strikes. He abhorred the violence that broke out in Berkeley in 1969 and used the National Guard to restore order. He also served as a friendly witness before the House Un-American Activities Committee and cooperated with the blacklisting of suspected leftists.
Another notable fact about Reagan is his service in the military. During World War II, he had been a member of the U.S. Army Cavalry Reserve. However, he was not eligible for combat duty due to his nearsightedness. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, he spent the next three years in the Army Air Corps First Motion Picture Unit, where he narrated movies to help new recruits. He also starred in patriotic films that were produced to aid the war effort. His role as a narrator made him popular with reporters, and he was nicknamed the Gipper by the press.
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