Politics

Vice presidents of the United States

Updated 11:14 AM ET, Mon February 20, 2017
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Adams was the nation's first vice president, serving under George Washington for two terms. A revolutionary hero, he once said "the vice presidency is the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived." Washington rarely consulted Adams, but as president of the Senate, Adams cast a historic 31 tie-breaking votes. He was elected President in 1796. Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group Editorial/Getty Images
Primary author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson became the second vice president in 1796 after he lost the Electoral College vote to John Adams by the slimmest of margins (71-68). During Adams' Federalist administration, Jefferson and James Madison tried to rally opposition, especially to the Alien and Sedition Acts. Jefferson was elected President in 1800, when this portrait was made by Rembrandt Peale, and he later founded the University of Virginia. AP
With Aaron Burr, there's BLMM and ALMM (before and after Lin-Manuel Miranda). Miranda's musical "Hamilton" made famous Burr's infamous act -- killing former Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton in a duel. But Burr brought to the vice presidency a long career as a revolutionary and lawyer, and deep influence in the state of New York. After killing Hamilton (and his own career), Burr traveled in the American West and Europe, eventually returning to the United States to live under his mother's maiden name of Edwards. Bettmann Archive
Clinton, the first governor of New York, served as vice president to both Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. He was famous even before he shared a name with the more well-known funk musician. In 1812, he became the first vice president to die in office (heart attack). Stock Montage/Archive Photos/Getty Images
Gerry replaced George Clinton as James Madison's vice president in 1813, and, like Clinton, he died before he could complete his term. A signer of the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation, he is best known for the word "gerrymandering," the process by which electoral districts are drawn to aid the party in power. During his second term as Massachusetts governor, the legislature approved new state Senate districts -- hence the name. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
As governor of New York during the War of 1812, Tompkins reorganized the state militia. In 1814, he declined an appointment as secretary of state before becoming James Monroe's running mate in 1816 and 1820. While still in office in 1820, he unsuccessfully challenged DeWitt Clinton in the New York gubernatorial race. He died three months after leaving the vice presidency. Philip and Elizabeth De Bay/Corbis Historical/Getty Images
Best known today as a Southern statesman, political theorist and proponent of slavery, Calhoun served as vice president under John Quincy Adams and stayed in the job for Andrew Jackson. He'd previously been secretary of war and was later secretary of state under John Tyler and James K. Polk. He was also, along with Henry Clay and Daniel Webster, known as one of the "Great Triumvirate" statesmen. Corbis Historical/Getty Images
Van Buren, a native of New York and the first vice president born in the United States, served as both vice president and secretary of state to Andrew Jackson before becoming President himself in 1837. UniversalImagesGroup/Getty Images
Johnson served under William Henry Harrison and was rumored to have killed Shawnee chief Tecumseh during the War of 1812. He was publicly and privately vilified for his interracial romance with Julia Chinn, a slave Johnson treated as his wife. As vice president to Martin Van Buren, Johnson was such a liability that when Van Buren ran for re-election in 1840 -- unsuccessfully -- he did so with no running mate. Kean Collection/Getty Images
The sidekick in the slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too," Tyler was vice president for just a matter of weeks before the death of President William Henry Harrison. Critics of his subsequent presidency called him "His Accidency." GraphicaArtis/Getty Images
In addition to being James K. Polk's vice president, Dallas was mayor of Philadelphia and governor of Pennsylvania. A longtime rival of James Buchanan, Dallas was a savvy operator in the Senate as vice president. And when he couldn't position himself as a presidential contender in 1852, he served as Franklin Pierce's minister to the Court of St. James. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
The Whigs nominated a pro-slavery Virginian, Zachary Taylor, for President in 1848. But adding anti-slavery moderate Fillmore to the ticket mollified the wing of the party opposed to the slave trade. Following Taylor's death, Fillmore served as President during the "Crisis of 1850." His support for the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 resulted in his losing the 1852 Whig nomination to Winfield Scott. Fillmore was also the founder and first chancellor of the University of Buffalo. Library of Congress/Corbis/Getty Images
King was the only vice president from the state of Alabama, and he held the office for only three weeks before he died. He had served in Congress and as a minister to France, and in 1853 he was was president pro tempore of the Senate. As such, he became vice president after vice president Millard Fillmore succeeded Zachary Taylor. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Breckenridge served in both houses of Congress and was elected vice president under James Buchanan. At 36 years old, he was the youngest ever to serve in that role. He returned to the Senate after Buchanan's single term, but he was expelled after joining the Confederacy (for which he served as secretary of war). He is the only vice president ever to be indicted for treason. Encyclopaedia Britannica/Universal Images Group/Getty Images
The first vice president of the Republican Party, Hamlin served as Abraham Lincoln's vice president during the Civil War. They did not meet until after the election. He had also been a senator and governor of Maine. When Lincoln ran for re-election, he was already focused on the need for Southern Reconstruction, so he selected Tennessean Andrew Johnson as a running mate instead of Hamlin. Library of Congress
Johnson was a War Democrat chosen by Republican Abraham Lincoln as part of his National Union ticket in 1864. After Lincoln's assassination in 1865, Johnson became President. He served until 1869, surviving an impeachment conviction by a single vote in the Senate. Library of Congress/Getty Images
Colfax, along with John Nance Garner, is one of two Americans to serve as both Speaker of the House and vice president. As speaker, Colfax voted for passage of the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery, in 1865. When he and Ulysses S. Grant were elected in 1868, they were the youngest ticket elected in the 19th century. Henry Wilson beat out Colfax for the vice-presidential nomination for Grant's second term. Library of Congress/Corbis/Getty
Massachusetts native Wilson was anti-slavery and a Radical Republican after the Civil War -- he introduced the bill that would abolish slavery in the nation's capital in 1861. Grant's second vice president, Wilson suffered from ill health and died of a stroke before completing his term. Library of Congress
A New York lawyer and proponent of racial equality, Wheeler was elected to Congress five times. He was known for his honesty, returning a pay raise in 1873 that Congress voted for itself. The Republican convention nominated him as Rutherford B. Hayes' running mate in 1876 to balance the ticket. Hayes reportedly wrote to his wife: "I am ashamed to say: Who is Wheeler?" They later became friends. Library of Congress
Arthur practiced law in New York City, and in 1871 President Grant named him Collector of the Port of New York, a post from which he doled out patronage jobs for the Republican party machine. He was nominated for vice president to balance the ticket topped by James A. Garfield, who died 200 days into his term after an assassination attempt. Arthur took the oath of office the next day. Oscar White//Corbis/Getty Images
An Indianan, Hendricks served in the House of Representatives and the Senate, where he voted against the 13th, 14th and 15th Reconstruction amendments to the Constitution. Later, on his third try, he was elected governor of Indiana. He ran twice for vice president, and after winning in 1885 he served nearly eight months before dying in his sleep. Bettmann Archive
First elected as a congressman from New York in 1879, Morton declined James A. Garfield's offer of the vice presidency, serving instead as minister to France. When construction of the Statue of Liberty began in 1881, he drove the first rivet into the big toe of the statue's left foot. Elected as vice president to Benjamin Harrison, Morton was criticized for failing to help break a Democratic filibuster of a bill that would force the South to recognize black men's voting rights. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
Democrat Stevenson served in Congress and then as the first assistant postmaster general under President Grover Cleveland -- a job that allowed him to fire thousands of Republican postmasters across the country and replace them with Democrats. He joined Cleveland on the ticket in 1892, and as vice president he opposed the Lodge Bill, which aimed to enfranchise southern blacks. His son served as Illinois secretary of state. His grandson and namesake was Illinois governor and ran twice for president in the 1950s. His great-grandson, Adlai Ewing Stevenson III, was a U.S. senator. Library of Congress
A well-educated schoolteacher ushered into politics by his father-in-law (the mayor of Paterson, New Jersey), Hobart rose swiftly to win a state Senate seat. On the strength of his success in corporate leadership, he was tapped to run on a ticket with William McKinley, whom he'd never met. Hobart's tenure was marked by an expansion of vice-presidential power. He died of heart problems before his term was out. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
"I would a great deal rather be anything, say professor of history, than vice president," Roosevelt said. The former New York governor, seen at right with President William McKinley, ended up serving just six months as vice president, assuming the presidency after McKinley was assassinated. Roosevelt was the youngest President in America's history. He would become known as a trust buster and conservationist, setting aside more than 200 million acres across the country as public lands for national forests and wildlife refuges. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
Fairbanks grew up in a log cabin, worked briefly as a reporter, but prospered as a lawyer representing railroad interests. A friend of President William McKinley, Fairbanks was elected to the U.S. Senate. He was picked to be Theodore Roosevelt's running mate, but Roosevelt gave him a minimal role and stood in the way of his presidential ambitions. The Nation magazine wrote of Fairbanks, "No public speaker can more quickly drive an audience to despair." Fairbanks, Alaska, was named for him after he served on a Senate commission on Alaska affairs. Library of Congress
Sherman had been an influential member of the House, earning the nickname "Sunny Jim" for his friendly demeanor. But Sherman refused when President William Howard Taft asked him to be a conduit to the powerful Speaker Joseph Cannon: "You will have to act on your own account. I am to be vice president and acting as a messenger boy is not part of the duties." Sherman served most of his term but fell ill with Bright's disease and died just before the election in 1912. Library of Congress
Marshall was vice president for two terms under President Woodrow Wilson. Previously governor of Indiana, Marshall assumed office a little more than a year before the outbreak of World War I. Library of Congress
Coolidge reportedly learned of President Warren Harding's death in the middle of the night; was sworn in by his father, a justice of the peace; and went back to bed. His road to the vice presidency started in Massachusetts, where he was a legislator and then governor, drawing the approval of Republicans after he broke a Boston police strike. Mansell/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
A lawyer and financial whiz, Dawes was put in charge of supply procurement for American troops in Europe during World War I. When called to testify in 1921 before a congressional investigation on war expenditures, he railed so colorfully that his testimony became a Government Printing Office best-seller. Dawes won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1925 for orchestrating a fix to Germany's failing economy. His tenure with President Calvin Coolidge was frosty. FPG/Archive Photos/Getty Images
The first vice president of Native American heritage, Curtis served in the House and Senate, where he was Republican whip, instrumental in helping to prevent Woodrow Wilson from entering the United States into the League of Nations. He lost his bid for the presidential nomination to Herbert Hoover, who tapped him as his running mate. Library of Congress/Corbis/Getty Images
Garner, known as "Cactus Jack," was Speaker of the House before becoming Franklin D. Roosevelt's vice president in 1933. He's best known for saying, "The vice presidency isn't worth a bucket of warm piss." He also called the office "the worst damn fool mistake I ever made." When Garner turned 95 on November 22, 1963, he got a call with birthday wishes from President John F. Kennedy -- a few hours before Kennedy's assassination in Dallas. Library of Congress
Wallace was Franklin D. Roosevelt's vice president between his stints as agriculture secretary in the 1930s and commerce secretary at the end of World War II. He was a vocal proponent of New Deal liberalism and famously spoke out for civil rights during the Detroit race riot of 1943. In 1944, Wallace became the first sitting vice president to visit the Soviet Union. In part because of his progressive tendencies, Roosevelt transitioned Wallace to be commerce secretary and ran for re-election in 1944 with Harry Truman as his running mate. Wallace later became the editor of The New Republic, in whose pages he opposed Truman's foreign policy as President. In 1948, Wallace ran unsuccessfully for President as the Progressive Party candidate. Associated Press
Truman, by some accounts, beat out Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas for the vice-president spot in what Roosevelt and his advisers knew would likely be FDR's final term. Truman was vice president for 82 days. He and Roosevelt met alone only twice before the latter's death in April 1945. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
The story goes that Barkley's grandson came up with the word "veep" -- supposedly he suggested this alternative to the more cumbersome vice president. Formerly a U.S. senator from Kentucky, Barkley was a popular orator and known storyteller who also managed to woo and marry a widow half his age during his tenure as second in command to Harry S. Truman. Lisa Larsen/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
The man whose name would become synonymous with presidential scandal seemed an ideal running mate for Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952. He was an up-and-coming anti-communist senator and former congressman from California, but corruption allegations threatened his position on the GOP ticket until he defended himself in his famous "Checkers" speech on TV. Denying he had taken money from supporters for his personal use, Nixon insisted the only gift he had received was a cocker spaniel named Checkers, and he refused to give the dog back because his daughters loved the animal. The public responded to the speech, and Eisenhower kept Nixon as his running mate. Ralph Crane/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
Dubbed "Master of the Senate" by his biographer Robert Caro, Johnson served as whip, minority leader and majority leader. The Texan was John F. Kennedy's vice president when Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in November 1963. As President, Johnson was best known as the architect of "Great Society" programs to expand the government safety net and promote racial equality, but his presidency became mired in the nation's growing involvement in the Vietnam War. Johnson's vice presidency was notable for tensions with the Kennedys and his efforts to maximize his influence. Bettmann Archive/Getty Images
A strong progressive, Humphrey was elected to the U.S. Senate from Minnesota in 1948 and was the Democratic majority whip in the early 1960s before joining Lyndon Johnson's 1964 presidential ticket. The lead author of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Humphrey ran unsuccessfully for President in 1968 against Richard Nixon. Harry Benson/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Richard Nixon's first vice president joined him on the ticket in both 1968 and 1972 and was described as his "hatchet man" on the Vietnam War. Agnew was the first Greek-American to be governor of Maryland and U.S. vice president. During his second term, he became only the second vice president to resign his office after facing criminal charges of extortion, tax fraud, bribery and conspiracy. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Ford was a college football star, longtime congressman, husband of a feminist activist, and the first sitting president to be lampooned on "Saturday Night Live" (by Chevy Chase). He is best known for assuming the presidency and pardoning Richard Nixon following Nixon's resignation in 1974 over the Watergate scandal. Ford's vice presidency was also birthed by scandal: His predecessor, Spiro Agnew, resigned in the face of charges of tax evasion and money laundering. Owen Franken/Corbis Historical/Getty Images
Born into a family made famous and rich by Standard Oil, Rockefeller ran family businesses and was a philanthropist before pursuing public service in positions under the Roosevelt, Truman and Eisenhower administrations. As New York governor, he focused on issues of education, housing, transportation and crime, including drug laws. He ran for President in 1964 and 1968, and after Gerald Ford was elevated to the presidency by Richard Nixon's resignation, he was named vice president. Two years later, he was dropped from the re-election ticket in favor of Bob Dole. AP
Mondale was a U.S. senator from Minnesota when he joined Jimmy Carter's ticket in 1976. After a turbulent four years with a struggling economy and global turmoil, Carter and Mondale lost their re-election bid to Republicans Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Mondale ran unsuccessfully for President in 1984, nominating Geraldine Ferraro as his running mate -- the first woman to be a vice-presidential candidate for a major party. They campaigned for a nuclear freeze, the Equal Rights Amendment, an increase in taxes and a reduction in the national debt. Mikki Ansin/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Bush was Ronald Reagan's vice president after serving as CIA director, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and congressman from Texas. He became the first vice president to serve as acting President in 1985 while Reagan had colon surgery. John Redman/AP
Quayle, a former congressman and senator from Indiana, was a relative unknown when George H.W. Bush picked him as his vice president in 1988 (leading to Democrat Lloyd Bentsen's famous quip about Quayle's lack of experience -- "Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy"). He gained notoriety soon enough for criticizing the portrayal of family on the popular TV show "Murphy Brown." (Its protagonist, played by Candice Bergen, was a single mother.) Barry Thumma/AP
The most recent vice president from the South, Tennessean Al Gore grew up in Washington when his father, Al Gore Sr., was in the Senate. Following military service in Vietnam and a stint in journalism, Gore followed in his father's footsteps to Congress, serving in both the House and the Senate before becoming Bill Clinton's running mate in 1992. Known for losing one of the most contentious presidential elections in modern history in 2000, Gore is now a prominent environmental activist. Ruth Fremson/AP
A jack-of-all-trades in government service, Cheney served as House minority whip, secretary of defense and White House chief of staff before becoming George W. Bush's vice president. His advocacy for the Iraq War is well-known, as is the ill-fated hunting accident in which he shot and wounded a friend. Less well-known? His dog was once banned from Camp David after scrapping with the presidential pet, Barney. LUCAS J. GILMAN/AP
A presidential candidate himself in 1988 and 2008, Biden is best known as the longest-serving senator from his home state of Delaware and for continuing to serve after losing most of his family in a tragic auto accident. He was chairman of both the Foreign Relations and Judiciary committees, where he opposed the 1991 Gulf War, championed the Violence Against Women Act and chaired the contentious confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominees Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. As vice president, he is known as a passionate policy contrarian and maker of public gaffes. David Lienemann/The White House
Republican Mike Pence became the 48th Vice President in 2017. Pence formerly served as governor of Indiana, and he was a congressman from 2001-2013. White House Photo