Cover image for First fathers : the men who inspired our Presidents
First fathers : the men who inspired our Presidents
Gullan, Harold I., 1931-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Hoboken, N.J. : John Wiley & Sons, [2004]

Physical Description:
xii, 308 pages : illustrations, portraits ; 25 cm
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E176.25 .G85 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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A compelling introduction to the fathers of America's presidents
After so much literature about first ladies and first families, here finally is a fascinating book focused on the fathers of our presidents. This lively and entertaining account of 44 disparate men reveals how they inspired, motivated, and influenced sons who ultimately ascended to the presidency. They include two who were themselves presidents, John Adams and George H. W. Bush, as well as two stepfathers, those of Gerald Ford and Bill Clinton. First Fathers captures the whole range of the American experience--from utter destitution to immense wealth, from enormous success to abject failure, unified by a common thread--the restless, ambitious, quintessentially American pursuit of happiness.

Harold I. Gullan, PhD (Philadelphia, PA), is a distinguished presidential scholar and the author of the highly praised Faith of Our Mothers, on the mothers of American presidents, and The Upset That Wasn't, on the dramatic 1948 election.

Author Notes

Harold I. Gullan, Ph.D., is the author of the critically acclaimed Faith of Our Mothers, a book about the mothers of American presidents, and The Upset That Wasn't, a unique account of the dramatic 1948 victory of Harry S. Truman over Thomas E. Dewey. Following a successful career in advertising, Gullan returned to school to earn his doctorate in history, in 1988. Since that time, he has served as a visiting professor at four major universities, and has written and spoken extensively about the American experience.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

If, as some historians have asserted, history is all biography, then it follows that the relationship between important historical figures and their parents is often critical in understanding significant men, women, and their times. Gullan, who serves as visiting professor of history at four universities, previously examined the role of mothers of presidents in Faith of Our Mothers (2001). Here he explores the influence of fathers upon a collection of presidents. Many of the connections, while interesting, hardly seem useful in understanding particular presidents. For example, the fathers of Washington, Jackson, and Lincoln had little direct influence upon their characters, and in some cases that influence was negative rather than inspirational. In the case of Franklin Roosevelt, Nixon, and Clinton, we would be better served by looking at their mothers. Still, the relations between John Adams, McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt and their fathers are particularly interesting as viewed by Gullan. While this is ground previously covered by biographers, this is a useful and generally enjoyable exploration of the formative influences upon these men. --Jay Freeman Copyright 2004 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Not all American presidents have taken their inspiration from their fathers: Andrew Jackson's "restless, ambitious" father died before he was born and there is, Gullan admits, no record that Abraham Lincoln ever "said anything favorable about his father. For that matter, he rarely mentioned him at all." But this is the exception rather than the rule, and where historian Gullan can't document inspiration, he writes of the influence presidential fathers had on their sons. Gullan, who previously chronicled the impact of presidential mothers, here gives profiles of 44 men of varying backgrounds, education, professions and temperaments, who nevertheless all imbued their sons with tremendous ambition and a dedication to public service. John Edward Reagan didn't bequeath his political affiliation to Ron (he was a Democrat), but he did pass on his gift for storytelling and his hatred of bigotry. These brief portraits can be somewhat sentimental and only mildly illuminating, but careful readers may glean some of what it takes to raise a U.S. president. B&w photos. (May) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. vii
By Way of Introductionp. ix
1 Fathers of Foundersp. 1
Augustine Washington
John Adams Sr.
Peter Jefferson
James Madison Sr.
Spence Monroe
2 The First Linep. 28
John Adams
3 Dramatic Departurep. 41
Andrew Jackson Sr.
Abraham Van Buren
4 Patriots and Pioneersp. 49
Benjamin Harrison V
John Tyler Sr.
Samuel Polk
Richard Taylor
Nathaniel Fillmore
Benjamin Pierce
James Buchanan Sr.
5 Soil of Greatnessp. 84
Thomas Lincoln
6 Ambition's Sterner Stuffp. 97
Jacob Johnson
Jesse Root Grant
Rutherford Hayes Jr.
Abram Garfield
William Arthur
7 "Tell the Truth"p. 124
Richard Falley Cleveland
John Scott Harrison
William McKinley Sr.
8 "One Must Live for the Living"p. 140
Theodore Roosevelt Sr.
9 "My Will Is the Better Man"p. 150
Alphonso Taft
10 "You Have Only to Persevere"p. 160
Joseph Ruggles Wilson
11 "I Hate to Go Away"p. 170
George Tryon Harding II
John Calvin Coolidge
Jesse Clark Hoover
12 "Most Generous and Kindly of Men"p. 193
James Roosevelt
13 From the Heart of Americap. 201
John Anderson Truman
David Jacob Eisenhower
14 "We Don't Want Any Losers"p. 213
Joseph Patrick Kennedy Sr.
15 "A Man Who Loved His Fellow Man"p. 227
Sam Ealy Johnson Jr.
16 "He Hears the Trains Go By"p. 234
Francis Anthony Nixon
Leslie Lynch King Sr.
Gerald Rudolph Ford Sr.
17 "Why Not the Best?"p. 249
James Earl Carter Sr.
John Edward Reagan
18 "Duty and Service"p. 262
Prescott Sheldon Bush
19 "The Name Doesn't Matter"p. 270
William Jefferson Blythe III
Roger Clinton
20 "If You Need Me, I'm Here"p. 277
George Herbert Walker Bush
In Conclusionp. 285
Some Books I've Found Helpfulp. 287
Indexp. 299