Presidents Day: Midwesterners who served in the White House

Abraham Lincoln memorial at the Nebraska state capitol

About a third of American Presidents (15 of 44) have Midwestern roots. Can you name them? Only kidding. The quiz comes at the end of the post.

We’ve visited seven locations related to our presidents, with six of them belonging to the Midwest. In addition, Rapid City, SD, is home to Mount Rushmore, honoring four presidents, as well as the President’s sculpture walk downtown.

Abraham Lincoln

My favorite president is Abraham Lincoln. He did so much to keep the country united in the end after the Civil War, as well as working on social programs, such as the Emancipation Proclamation to free slaves.

Abe Lincoln as a youth exhibit at the Lincoln Presidential Museum in Springfield, IL

He was born in Kentucky, but spent most of his life in Indiana and Illinois. He had a law practice in Springfield, Illinois. The home that he and Mary Todd shared with their children is in Springfield. In fact, Lincoln accepted the Republican nomination for the presidency in his living room at the home. It was where he planned to live following his presidency. The Lincoln Museum and Library are located in Springfield.

The Lincoln family in front of the White House

The Lincoln home is part of the National Park Service. It’s located among a historic district, which has other houses from the era.

Lincoln’s Springfield home

Sadly, in April 1865, a few weeks after the Civil War ended, he was assassinated. He and most of his family are interred in a memorial at the Springfield cemetery.

The family mausoleum at the local cemetery

Ulysses S Grant

Ulysses S. Grant served as the leader of the Union’s army for Lincoln. Before that, Grant and his family had moved to Galena, Illinois, in 1860. He ran a business, while a home was constructed for them. In 1861, he left to serve in the army.

President Grant’s Galena home

Following the war, Grant visited Galena sporadically, always wanting to stay part of the community. He served as president 1869-77. His last visit to the Galena home was in 1880.

Herbert Hoover

Herbert Hoover was born in West Branch, Iowa. His presidential library and museum is located there. While Hoover received a brunt of blame for the Great Depression, he actually forewarned of something happening major happening while serving as labor secretary.

Herbert Hoover worked to develop the nation as labor secretary

Hoover’s religion as a Quaker played a strong role in his drive to serve the greater good. Before his presidency, he worked to deliver food to starving people in Europe. As labor secretary, he sought to modernize business and make life better for Americans.

He sought to have a successful presidency. But, when banks failed and Wall Street crashed, his presidency was doomed. The Great Depression created horrible conditions for Americans. People lost jobs, homes and money. He was a one-term president.

The Great Depression hit early in Hoover’s term. The Wall Street collapse and locks on banks spelled doom for his presidency.

President Harry S Truman engaged him during the early onslaught of the Cold War. The communist nations had blocked off the eastern bloc. Berlin had been split in half with the Berlin Wall separating East and West. In an attempt to help feed people, Truman reached out to Hoover to help organize and execute the Berlin airlift. His success in earlier days were the blueprint for what was needed.

Following that crisis, the Democrat (Truman) and Republican (Hoover) enjoyed a good personal relationship.

Presidents Truman and Hoover developed a respect for each other

Hoover enjoyed spending his post-presidency days fishing and writing.

Hoover’s office at his New York City apartment

Harry Truman

Truman served as President following the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945. Truman served as Roosevelt’s Vice-President. One of Truman’s first major decisions was to approve dropping two atomic bombs on Japan in an attempt to end World War II.

Replica of the Oval Office during Truman’s presidency

He oversaw a post-war economy everyone expected to boom. But, it didn’t improve to everyone’s expectations. Then, the Cold War kicked off in a major way with the Soviet bloc splitting Berlin.

Despite expectations, Truman won re-election and showed off a newspaper’s wrong call

Truman won re-election in 1948 despite not being wildly popular. He started to desegregate the military and federal government. He sought to develop social programs.

The Korean War started late in his presidency. He committed American troops to the effort.

As he prepared to leave office following the 1952 election, the economy was booming.

Covers of Life magazine in 1952, Truman’s last year of service

Following his presidency, he and his wife Bess lived a quiet life in their hometown of Independence, Missouri. The library and museum are located there.

President Truman and Bess are buried at his presidential museum

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Former General Dwight D. Eisenhower succeeded Truman. The Kansasan led the Allied Forces’ attack on D-Day in 1944, which started the end of World War II.

Eisenhower’s uniform as a 5-star general during World War II

Eisenhower, who was born in Texas, but whose family had Kansas roots and returned when he was a child, was a progressive-minded Republican. He pushed full segregation in the military and sent the National Guard to enforce segregation in Arkansas schools after pushback following the Supreme Court decision. He quickly negotiated the end to the Korean Conflict.

Snapshot of Ike’s goals as President

His administration created the interstate highway system, NASA and expanded the National Park Service.

Meditation Chapel. President Eisenhower, Mamie and one of their sons are buried here.

The Eisenhower museum complex in Abilene consists of five buildings and attractions. The visitors, childhood home, meditation chapel, presidential museum and the library. A statue of Eisenhower surrounded by five general stars is located in the middle of a complex. A veterans memorial is located a short distance away.

Eisenhower statue

Gerald Ford

The final presidential location we’ve visited is in Omaha. Gerald Ford was born in Omaha. His mother moved to Michigan with the children a few weeks after his birth. His parents divorced afterward.

Ford birthsite in Omaha

A presidential garden and conference center is located near his childhood home. The house burnt in a fire in 1971.

The birthsite has a beautiful garden

Ford was the 38th president, succeeding Richard Nixon, who resigned in lieu of impeachment for his role in covering up the Watergate scandal. Ford likely doomed his presidency when he pardoned Nixon for any crimes he may have committed. Ford served as the only non-elected vice-president and president in American history. He replaced Spiro Agnew as VP, following his resignation because of crimes he committed.

Ford’s presidency was overwrought with a bad economy and the national hangover of Watergate and the end of the Vietnam Conflict. Americans wanted to move forward with a fresh start. Ford was defeated by Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Presidential Walk in Rapid City

Not to be outdone by the presidential libraries, museums, gardens and historic sites, Rapid City offers a look at each of the American presidents on a downtown sculpture walk. It’s a neat tour to take. It’s interesting to see a statue of a former chief executive and remember what he was known for.

Since Ronald Reagan was elected president from California, he doesn’t have many Midwestern sites. However, the Illinois native does have a statue on the presidential route.

Ronald Reagan was born in Tampico, Illinois

Theodore Roosevelt was not from the Midwest, but the future president did live in North Dakota for a few years. Roosevelt lived in a small cabin near Medora in southwestern North Dakota. Roosevelt National Park is named in his honor. The state’s highest civic award – The Rough Rider – is named after Roosevelt and his military troops during the Spanish-American War in 1898.

Teddy Roosevelt wasn’t from the Midwest, but he lived in North Dakota for a few years

In case you’re wondering, the remaining presidents who hail from the Midwest are: Rutherford B. Hayes (Ohio), James Garfield (Ohio), William Henry Harrison (Ohio), his grandson Benjamin Harrison (Indiana by way of Ohio), William McKinley (Ohio), William Howard Taft Ohio), Warren G. Harding (Ohio), and President Barack Obama (Illinois by way of Hawaii).

Ok, that is one long list of Midwesterners who have served in the White House. I know we’re likely to have more in the future. So, everyone have their pencils out? Here’s the first question…

For more information on American presidents, please visit