Here Are All 5 Living Presidents Together at the George W. Bush Library

The gathering of Presidents Bush, Bush, Clinton, Carter, and Obama appears to tie for the largest such convention of commanders in chief ever.
More
all5tight.banner.AP.jpg.jpg
Associated Press

For a few hours Thursday, Dallas is the center of American presidential power. As dignitaries gather for the opening of the George W. Bush Library at Southern Methodist University, there will be five current or former inhabitants of the Oval Office: Bush, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter, all five of the living commanders in chief.

Here also are First Ladies Obama, Laura Bush, Clinton, Barbara Bush, and Rosalynn Carter:

AP532016539658.jpg.jpg
Associated Press

Getting definitive data is tough to come by, but this may tie for the largest such gathering ever. At Richard Nixon's funeral in 1994, Presidents Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Reagan, Carter, and Ford all attended.

nixonfuneral.banner.reuters.jpg.jpg
Reuters

Both Bushes, Carter, Clinton, and Ford also attended Ronald Reagan's 2004 funeral. Before Reagan's death, there were six current and former presidents, but I haven't found any photographic evidence that they ever met. As Reagan struggled with Alzheimer's disease, he seldom appeared in public from around 2000.

RTR47IQ.jpg.jpg
Reuters

Presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush joined together at the opening of the Reagan Presidential Library in 1991:

fivepresspan.jpg

The National Security Archive also turned up this great image of President Kennedy, then-Vice President Johnson, Eisenhower, and Truman at late House Speaker Sam Rayburn's 1961 funeral:

kenndey-johnson-eisenhower-truman.jpg
National Security Archive

The group convening in Dallas today has met before, including in this January 2009 shot in the Oval Office. But this was in the waning days of the Bush Administration, and Obama had not yet been sworn in.

Wovaloffice5.banner.reuters.jpg.jpg
Reuters

There were five former presidents at the time of Lincoln's inauguration (Buchanan, Pierce, Fillmore, Tyler, and Van Buren), but I find no evidence that they all attended his inauguration, perhaps unsurprising given the division of the country at the time; Tyler would go on to serve briefly in the Confederate legislature (please let me know if I'm wrong!). It also seems plausible that Presidents Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe -- perhaps with Adams's son John Quincy -- were together, but never when all were current or former presidents.

Groups of four presidents, however, are more common. Here are Presidents Kennedy, Truman, Johnson (in back), and Eisenhower at Eleanor Roosevelt's 1962 funeral.

eleanorfuneral.jpg
Wikimedia Commons

Herbert Hoover, whose record for longest ex-presidency was only broken by Jimmy Carter in September of 2012, remained involved in national politics after losing to Franklin Roosevelt in 19281932, and in fact became close friends with Harry Truman. Here are Dwight Eisenhower, then still in the military, Truman, and Hoover in 1947.

64_545.jpg
Truman Library

But the crown for most-gathered actually belongs to First Ladies. Here's a 1994 photograph of First Lady Hillary Clinton (far right) along with (from left) Lady Bird Johnson, Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, Nancy Reagan, and Barbara Bush.

AP9405110124.jpg.jpg
Associated Press

At the Washington Post, David Beard has a nice round-up of photos unearthed by historian Michael Beschloss.

Jump to comments
Presented by

David A. Graham

David Graham is a senior associate editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Politics Channel. He previously reported for Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The National.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Social Security: The Greatest Government Policy of All Time?

It's the most effective anti-poverty program in U.S. history. So why do some people hate it?


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Politics

Just In