Shortest Serving Presidents In U.S. History

Although most presidents serve at least four years, some presidents have spent less time in office.

US Presidents are elected on a 4 year term that can be renewed once. Many American Presidents have served their two terms in full while others have been dropped through elections, resignation, assassinations or death through illnesses. The presidents covered below spent the least time in office.

Shortest Serving Presidents In U.S. History

More than 1000 Days in Office

John Tyler (1790 –1862) was the 10th US Vice President for 31 days, before succeeding William Harrison in 1841 to become the 10th president. Tyler was born to an eminent family in Virginia and supported the strengthening of the Union. Tyler served for 1430 days and was not re-elected.

Andrew Johnson was the 17th US President who served for 1419 days from 1865 to 1869. Born to a low-income family in Tennessee, he rose to serve as an alderman, mayor, congressman, senator, governor, and Lincoln’s Vice President before being sworn in after Lincoln’s assassination. He ascended to office towards the end of the civil war and advocated for restoration of southern states that had seceded. Johnson was the first president to be impeached by the House of Representatives but restored by the Senate after which, he finished Lincoln’s term but was not re-elected.

Chester Alan Arthur (1829 – 1886) was an attorney and 21st US President for 1262 days between 1881 and 1885. Chester became president after Garfield’s assassination but struggled to maintain a positive reputation. He is best remembered for the enforcement of the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act.

John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy (1917 –1963), or JFK, was the 35th US President between 1961 and 1963. He served throughout times of communist tensions, the Space Race, Civil Rights Movements, Cuban Missile Crisis, and other events. JFK was the youngest elected President at 43 years and the first person born in the 20th Century to become the US President. He is the only Roman Catholic President to date and only President to win the Pulitzer Prize. JFK established the Presidential Medal of Freedom and served in the Navy in World War II. JFK was assassinated after 1036 days in office.

More than 500 Days in office

Millard Fillmore (1800 – 1874) was America’s 13th President who succeeded Zachary Tylor for 969 days between 1850 and 1853. Fillmore was a member of the Whig Party and was instrumental in the formation of Compromise in 1850. Fillmore was born into poverty and rose to become a lawyer and congressman. Fillmore was not re-elected.

Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr. was born Leslie Lynch King Jr. in 1913. Ford became the 38th US President from 1974 to 1977 (897 days) and is the only American to ever serve as a vice president. He was elected president without an election as he replaced a vice president who died in office and President Nixon who resigned. As president, Ford presided over the end of US involvement in Vietnam, the Great Depression, and granted President Nixon a presidential pardon for his role in the Watergate Scandal. Ford served in the Navy, and his presidency was the shortest of all presidents who did not die in office. He died in 2006 at 93 years having lived longer than any other president.

Warren Gamaliel Harding was the 29th President of the US who served for 881 days from 1921 to 1923. Having risen from Senate, Harding died of CVD-related brain hemorrhage. Major sexual and professional scandals were unearthed after he died - factors which rated him among the worst US Presidents.

Fewer than 500 Days in Office

Zachary Taylor (1784 – 1850) served as the 12th President between 1849 and 1850 for 492 days. Taylor, a Major General in the US Army, was a famous national hero because of his victories in different wars which won him the presidency. As president, he preserved the Union but died of suspected food poisoning or cholera.

James Abram Garfield was a Republican attorney and the 20th US President serving for 199 days beginning March 4, 1881. Initially, he had served as a major general in the Union Army, congressman, and senator. Garfield is remembered for reviving presidential authority over the senate and revamping the Navy during his short service. Garfield succumbed to gunshot wounds 11 weeks after he was shot in Washington DC.

William Henry Harrison Sr. was the 9th President of the US who died at 68 of pneumonia. He passed away 31 days after he delivered the longest inaugural speech in US history, 8,445 words in two hours. William was the first president to die in office and was survived by ten children. His grandchild, Benjamin became the US’s 23rd President. William was a Democrat turned Republican general in the Tippecanoe and Themes battles before serving in the house of representatives, senate and as Governor of Indiana who lost his first stab at the presidency.

Final thought

William Harrison, James Abram Garfield, and Zachary Taylor were battle-hardened soldiers who did not live long to enjoy the fruits of their service. Presidents need at least four years to deliver tangible achievements, but most individuals in this list performed well in their limited service to the American people.

Shortest Serving Presidents In U.S. History

RankPresident, Termination Of TenureTime In Office
1William Henry Harrison, Complications from Pneumonia31 days
2James A. Garfield, Assassinated199 days
3Zachary Taylor, Cholera or Food Poisoning492 days
4Warren G. Harding, CVD-related Brain Hemorrhage881 days
5Gerald Ford, Finished Nixon's Term and Not Reelected895 days
6Millard Fillmore, Finished Taylor's Term and Not Reelected969 days
7John F. Kennedy, Assassinated1,036 days
8Chester A. Arthur, Finished Garfield's Term and Not Reelected1,262 days
9Andrew Johnson, Finished Lincoln's Term and Not Reelected1,419 days
10John Tyler, Finished W. H. Harrison's Term and Not Reelected1,430 days

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