We call Barack Obama our 44th president, but we’re counting presidential administrations and not the actual number of men who have served as president.
And the number is different. We’ve had 44 presidential administrations, but only 43 men as president.
We often forget that Grover Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms as president. Cleveland was both our 22nd and 24th president.
Even President Obama forgot this little bit of history in his inaugural address on January 20, 2009. Obama noted at the beginning of that speech that “Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath,” when he should have said “forty-three.”
Lyndon Johnson also got confused about how many men had served as president. In remarks after his presidency on August 27, 1969, Johnson stated:
“Of the 37 Presidents that have come, and 36 have gone on, I feel sure from what I have read and studied about their lives that their greatest problem was never doing what was right; their greatest problem was knowing what was right.”
Johnson apparently had a problem knowing what was right about the number of presidents. He was the nation’s 36th president (but 35th man to be president) and Richard Nixon was the 37th president (and 36th man to be president).
Mike Purdy’s Presidential History Blog
© 2012 by Michael E. Purdy