Have Any US Presidents Served More Than Two Terms?

A sculpture of Franklin Roosevelt, former president of the United States.
A sculpture of Franklin Roosevelt, former president of the United States.

There have been 45 presidential administrations and 44 presidents in the United States. Of the 44 presidents, 13 served for two full terms while 12 served for one full term before leaving office. Seven served more than one term but did not complete their second terms after they died or resigned. Ten American presidents did not complete their first term in office. Four presidents died of natural causes while serving and four others were assassinated. Richard Nixon is the only president who resigned. William Henry Harrison served the shortest term of 31 days before he died. Grover Cleveland is the only president who served two non-conservative terms. He served as the 22nd and 24th president. Franklin D. Roosevelt is the only president who served for more than two terms. Roosevelt served from March 4, 1933, to April 12, 1945, which translates to three terms, two months, and twenty-three days or 4,422 days. Theodore Roosevelt took over the reign of William McKinley after he was assassinated six months into his second term, he won the subsequent election but lost when he tried running for the third term.

Why Did Roosevelt Serve More Than Two Terms?

Contrary to what several people believe, the two-term presidential limit came into force when Congress ratified the 22nd Amendment on February 27, 1951. All presidents who served before then were eligible to serve more than two terms but Franklin Roosevelt was the only one who chose to do so.

When Roosevelt was elected to office in 1932 and subsequently in 1936 the Great Depression was sweeping across the United States. In 1939 the Second War began in Europe and influenced American’s choice to reelect Roosevelt for the third term. In 1944 the US was waging war in Europe against Germany and in the Pacific against a resilient Japan. The war was draining the American economy, and there was even a fear that the economy would collapse. Americans opted to keep their current leadership and they reelected Roosevelt for a record fourth term. However, he served 2 months and 23 days of his fourth term before succumbing to an illness.

The 22nd Amendment

Congress approved a proposal to amend the constitution to limit the presidential terms to a maximum to terms on March 24, 1947. On February 27, 1951, 41 states ratified the amendment. Massachusetts and Oklahoma rejected it while West Virginia, Washington, Rhode Island, Arizona, and Kentucky neither rejected nor ratified the amendment. Alaska and Hawaii were yet to be admitted to the union.


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