Powerful Political Families

Political Family Bracket – Round 1

We don’t have royalty in America, but we do have powerful political families.  Several characteristics define influential and important families:

·       Longevity: more years in service, more influence

·       Important Positions: higher offices, more influence

·       Number of Politicians: more offices held, more power

Similar to March Madness brackets in College Basketball, let’s do a Political Madness bracket to determine the most significant American political dynasty.

The candidate families are:

  • Rockefeller

  • Taft

  • Roosevelt

  • Adams

  • Harrison

  • Kennedy

  • Bush

  • Clinton

John Adams

John Adams

Adams Versus Taft

John Adams was the nation’s first Vice President and second President. He served as ambassador to the United Kingdom. His son, John Quincy Adams served as the nation’s sixth President. Quincy Adams served in the Senate for one-term and the House for seven terms, the only President to elected to the House post-Presidency. Quincy Adams was Secretary of State in President Monroe’s cabinet considered one of the creators of the ‘Monroe Doctrine.’ John Adam’s second cousin, Samuel Adams, was a founding father and one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. And yes, Samuel Adams was a brewer, and the beer is named in his honor. The Adams family has an impressive resume.

William Taft

William Taft

The first Taft to hold political office was Alphonso Taft, Secretary of War and Attorney General under President Grant. He also served as a minister to both Austria Hungary and Russia. Alphonso’s son, William Howard Taft, had a long distinguished career. He was 27th President of the United States from 1909 to 1913 and became the only President to serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, a position he held from 1921 – 1930. William Taft served as Secretary of War in Teddy Roosevelt’s cabinet and as Governor of the Philippines.

William’s son Robert Alfonso Taft served three terms in the Senate from Ohio including time as Senate majority leader. William’s grandson Robert Taft also served as a Senator from Ohio and great-grandson Robert Taft III was 2-term governor of Ohio in the early 2000s.

Winner: Five generations of Tafts have held political office versus two generations of Adams. This round goes to the Tafts.

Harrison Versus Rockefeller

The Harrisons like the name Benjamin. Benjamin Harrison I arrived in Virginia in the 1600’s and served in the colonial legislature as did Benjamin Harrison II, III, and IV. Harrison V signed the Declaration of Independence and was Governor of Virginia. His son, William Henry Harrison earned fame as a military leader most famously in the Battle of Tippecanoe. Harrison served as Governor, Representative, and Senator before his election to the Presidency in 1840 using the ‘Tippecanoe and Tyler Too’ campaign slogan. Harrison became the first President to die in office only thirty days after his inauguration.

Benjamin Harrison

Benjamin Harrison

William Henry Harrison’s son, John Scott, served in the U.S. House and was the father of our nation’s 23rd President,  Benjamin Harrison. William Henry and Benjamin are the only Grandfather/Grandson pair (to-date) to serve as President. He was the first President with electricity in the White House as well as the first President to have his voice recorded. Harrison’s grandson, another William H. Harrison, served in the House of Representatives from Wyoming for ten years until 1969.

A cousin, Carter Harrison served as Mayor of Chicago in the late 1800s. He was elected five times and assassinated by a disappointed patronage seeker. His son, Carter Harrison, Jr. also served five terms as Chicago Mayor in the early 1900s.

The Rockefellers are the only participants in this bracket without a President. However, three Rockefellers have been governor: Nelson from New York, Winthrop from Arkansas, and Jay from West Virginia. Nelson also served as Vice President while Jay was a Senator.

Winner: Harrisons – with two Presidents and politicians from the founding of the country into the 20th century, they easily beat the Rockefellers.

Roosevelt versus Kennedy

John F. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy

The Kennedys were a family of power and tragedy. John F. Kennedy (JFK) served in the House and Senate before becoming President. His brother, Robert F. Kennedy (RFK), served as Attorney General and Senator from New York. And Ted Kennedy served in the Senate for over 45 years. RFK’s son and grandson both were members of the United States House of Representatives from Massachusetts, while one of Ted’s sons served in the House for Rhode Island. Both JFK and RFK were assassinated. Teddy hurt his legacy; he drove a car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island. Mary Jo Kopechne was trapped in the vehicle and died after Kennedy delayed calling for help.

Teddy Roosevelt

Teddy Roosevelt

In the 1800s, Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. was active in New York City life, helping to found museums and hospitals. His oldest son, Ted Roosevelt served in the New York State assembly as minority leader, as Police Commissioner in New York, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Governor of New York, Vice President, and President. His niece, Eleanor, married distant cousin Franklin Roosevelt, who became 32nd President of the United States after serving as Governor of New York. Ted’s son, Ted Roosevelt, Jr. went into the military becoming the only general to land with the first wave of troops on D-Day. Roosevelt’s grandson, Quentin, also landed at Omaha Beach on D-day.

Winner: As glamorous as the Kennedy’s were, the Roosevelts had two Presidents both considered among the best in our history. This round goes to the Roosevelts.

Bush versus Clinton

The Clintons tried to create a political family. Bill served as Governor of Arkansas before becoming President. His wife, Hillary, served as Senator from New  York, and Secretary of State before losing the 2016 election for President. Daughter Chelsea has been rumored to run for political office but has not to-date.

George H.W. Bush

George H.W. Bush

The Bush family has a long political history. Prescott Bush served as Senator from Connecticut in the 1950s. His son, George H.W. Bush served as Vice President and President.  Prescott’s grandson, George W. Bush, served as President and Texas governor. ‘W’s brother, Jeb served as governor of Florida. Even Barbara Bush is connected, she is related to President Franklin Pierce.

Winner: Clinton may have defeated Bush in the 1992 Presidential campaign, but the Bush family beats the Clintons in the political family bracket.


Next Blog Post, the semifinals, as Taft takes on Harrison while Bush takes on Roosevelt.