[Puzzleblogger Kevan Choset, July 27, 2005 at 2:37pm] Trackbacks
Living Ex-Presidents

There are currently four living ex-Presidents (Ford, Carter, Bush, Clinton). Who was President the first time there were four living ex-Presidents?


What is the highest number of ex-Presidents to be alive at one time, and when did this happen?


As with the post on Living Ex-Justices, my question for you is: When were there were no living ex-Presidents?

UPDATE: I accidentally listed one of the answers to the second question as an answer to the first question (as some comments correctly pointed out). The answers above are correct as listed, I believe.

Barbara Skolaut (mail):
During George Washington's administration.
7.27.2005 3:41pm
Noah Snyder (mail):
I haven't had a chance to confirm this but the obvious guess is at the end of Truman's presidency.

FDR died in office and was president for 4 terms. By the end of Truman's time it would have been 20 years since the Hoover presidency.
7.27.2005 3:41pm
Cheburashka (mail):
Does anyone remember the "X-Presidents" cartoon that used to be shown during Saturday Night Live?

I think Nixon had the power of fire, but I just can't recall.
7.27.2005 3:46pm
Anthony (www):
Noah - Herbert Hoover died in 1964.

I think I agree with Barbara.
7.27.2005 3:53pm
John Beukema (mail):
In addition to the entire term of Washington, there were no living ex-presidents during the following periods:

12/14/1799 (death of Washington) until 3/4/1801 (end of John Adams' term)

7/31/1875 (death of Andrew Johnson) until 3/4/1877 (end of U.S. Grant's term)

Going back to the original question (first time there were four living ex-presidents), this first occurred during 1825-26, from the commencement of J.Q. Adams' term until the death of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson on July 4, 1826.

Herbert Hoover lived to the ripe old age of 90, dying in October 1964. He thus lived through the entire terms of FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, and JFK, and into the term of LBJ.
7.27.2005 3:53pm
Ken Summers (mail) (www):
Noah, Hoover (at least, haven't checked all) was still living during Truman's administration (he died in 1964).

Kevin, I believe your first answer is incorrect. When JQ Adams took office in March 1825, there were four living ex-presidents:

Adams and Jefferson both died July 4, 1826
Madison died June 28, 1836
Monroe died July 4, 1831

Dates collected here.
7.27.2005 3:56pm
Ken Summers (mail) (www):
Curse you and your quick fingers, John!
7.27.2005 3:57pm
Nixon was the only living president by 1973 or so, after LBJ died. His death was preceded by Truman and Eisenhower.
7.27.2005 3:59pm
Eisenhower died on March 28, 1969

Truman died on December 27, 1972

LBJ died on January 22, 1973

Nixon resigned on Friday, August 9, 1974

Thus between January 23, 1973 and August 9, 1974
there were no ex-presidents.
7.27.2005 4:02pm
And in the time it took me to google those dates, I was scooped by JohnM
7.27.2005 4:04pm
Anthony (www):
Ah - I missed at least one. George Washington died in 1799, during John Adams' term in office.

John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died during JQ Adams' presidency, but James Monroe outlived his successor's presidency.

Tyler lived until 1862, in Lincoln's presidency.

Fillmore lived until 1874, during Grant's presidency.

Grant lived until 1885, just after Grover Cleveland was inaugurated. While Chester Arthur died in 1886, Rutherford Hayes lived until 1893.

Grover Cleveland died in 1908, near the end of T. Roosevelt's presidency. It appears that from Grover Cleveland's death until Roosevelt was succeeded in 1909, there were no living ex-presidents.
7.27.2005 4:07pm
Anthony (www):
In addition to the ones supplied by John Beukema and chris:

June 24, 1908 (death of Grover Cleveland) to March 4, 1909, inauguration of William Howard Taft. McKinley and Harrison had died in 1901, leaving Cleveland as the only survivng ex-president during Theodore Roosevelt's term.

January 5, 1933 (death of Calvin Coolidge) to March 4, 1933, inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt. Wilson died in 1924, Harding in 1923, and Taft in 1930.
7.27.2005 4:45pm
John Beukema (mail):
Gee, there are more of these "no ex-president" occasions than I had realized. In addition to the Teddy Roosevelt and Nixon situations that I had missed in my first post and that others have since pointed out, still another was at the very end of Hoover's term. Coolidge (who had been the only living ex-president since Taft's death in 1930) died in January 1933, and Hoover didn't leave office until March 4, 1933.
7.27.2005 4:46pm
The posts about Hoover raise another intersting "puzzle": which ex-president lived through the most subsequent administrations?
7.27.2005 5:25pm
Alexander Kerdman (mail):
DSEK: that would be Ford w/ 5 (Carter, Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2)
7.27.2005 5:33pm
Kevan Choset (mail):
DSEK and Alexander Kerdman: Van Buren lived through more than Ford did. Van Buren lived through 8 (Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan, and Lincoln).
7.27.2005 5:46pm
JohnO (mail):
Hoover would also we five, right? FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and LBJ.
7.27.2005 5:46pm
John Beukema (mail):
Actually, both Van Buren (8 -- W.H. Harrison, Tyler, Polk, Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, Buchanan, and into Lincoln) and Tyler (6 -- Polk, Taylor, Fillmore, Piece, Buchanan, and into Lincoln) have Ford beat. Of does the question require that the ex-president have survived the entirety of at least one term of a two-term presidency for that president to count? If so, the Van Buren count would be 7 and the Tyler count only 5, since both of them died during Lincoln's first term.
7.27.2005 5:47pm
Paul.H (mail):
In the trivia addendum to this question what is the most popular day and month for a President to die?
7.27.2005 7:15pm
Nice try choset, too bad you screwed up the answers.
7.27.2005 8:15pm
Jeremy (mail):
There were many living ex-presidents when George Washington was in office. One of them was a fellow named Samuel Huntington, who is one correct answer to the question of "When were there no living ex-presidents." (Unless one considers Peyton Randolph!)
7.27.2005 9:15pm
Anthony Argyriou (mail) (www):
Jeremy -

The "office of president" under the Articles of Confederation is not the same office as that of President of the United States under the Constitution; effectively, under the Articles, the office was the president of Congress. So it is correct to state that there were no living ex-presidents while Washington was president.
7.27.2005 11:02pm
KC (mail) (www):
You guys could have saved a lot of trouble if you owned a copy of C-Span's American Presidents Timeline Poster. Or, maybe some of you do own one.
7.27.2005 11:58pm
Syd (mail):
Paul H: The most popular calendar date for a president to die on must be July 4: John Adams, Jefferson and Monroe. Calvin Coolidge was born on that date.

An aside: Madison died on June 30. He probably could have lingered on to July 4 with intensive care, but he didn't want to. Given the state of medicine in the early 19th century, I can understand why.
7.28.2005 12:07am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
It is interesting that no presidents died from the time LBJ died, leaving us with 0 living ex-presidents, until Nixon died, by which time the pool of living ex-presidents had grown back to the record-tying 5. In the form of a question, is this the most rapid (non-trivial) growth in the count of living ex-presidents? (The trivial answer is that the number instantaneously jumps at the instant of succession.)
7.28.2005 12:46pm
Paul.H (mail):
"Paul H: The most popular calendar date for a president to die on must be July 4: John Adams, Jefferson and Monroe. Calvin Coolidge was born on that date."

This is correct. Another interesting point of trivia is that July 4th is the only day of the year where more than one President has died.
7.28.2005 2:50pm
Jeremy (mail):
Anthony Argyriou,

Your statement squarely applies to those who held "president-like" offices before Huntington. However, it doesn't squarely apply to Huntingon and those who served after him but before Washington. They were "Presidents of the United States in Congress Assembled," which was somewhat different than being a mere presiding officer of Congress.
7.28.2005 4:54pm
JorgXMcKie (mail):
The most common date of death is an interesting probability problem (that I won't be taking the time to figure), in that it resembles bet I sometimes make at parties.

Do any two people in the room have the same birthday?
You can get odds or more than 10-1 from most people if there are less than 50 people in the room.

How many people have to be in the same room before the odds are at least 50/50 that two of them have the same birthday? The answer is around 21 or so. This is due to each additional birthday adding a potential hit. Most people think it would take at least half the possible birthdays, or some 188. At 50 people, the odds are well over 4-1 in favor.

Anyhoo, I wonder what the probabilities of 3 Presidents out of 43 (42? Cleveland counted twice?) having the same death date?

Any really good mathematics types out there?
7.28.2005 4:54pm
Paul.H (mail):
The probability seems pretty low. If you look here you can find how to calculate this. (Sorry, too much number crunching for me!)
7.28.2005 5:08pm
Paul.H (mail):
Although I can't comment on the odds of 3 out of 42 having the same date of death, from the table at the above link you can make the following statement:

At the time Monroe succumbed on July 4th, 1831, only four Presidents had died. The odds of three out of four having the same date of death was about 0.014% or the odds of it NOT happening was about 99.986%!
7.28.2005 5:16pm
Kevan Choset (mail):
As David points out, there was indeed a quite long stretch between the deaths of Johnson and Nixon. That 21-year period was the second longest, after the 27 years between the deaths of Washington and Adams/Jefferson. Though it's sort of unfair to count something so early in the nation's history, when there just weren't that many Presidents who could die.
7.29.2005 11:24am