1993 President William Clinton and Vice President Albert Gore. Editorial Credit: Mark Reinstein / Shutterstock.com

Youngest US Presidents

Since George Washington first took office as President of the United States in 1789, there have been 45 other men who followed him. Each leader has come into office with their own political flavor and aims in attempts to better their nation. 

Most of these men who take up the role of president tend to be seasoned and experienced politicians who have spent much of their adult lives in politics one way or another. The average age of American presidents is 55. Not exactly spring chickens. However, there are, of course, exceptions to this rule. The United States has seen its fair share of young and lively men take up the role of president. 

Jump to the table showing all US presidents ranked from youngest to oldest.

1. Theodore Roosevelt - 42 years old

Theodore Roosevelt's sense of humor, witty quotes, and general acts of greatness have been cemented into his legacy.
Theodore Roosevelt's sense of humor, witty quotes, and general acts of greatness have been cemented into his legacy.

"Speak softly and carry a big stick." This famous saying from Teddy Roosevelt does a great job of encapsulating the man's personality. The 26th president, Roosevelt, first took office in 1901 and left in 1909 after winning a second term. 

Roosevelt spent his early years in the American military and was celebrated for his exceptional display of courage and bravery during the Spanish-American War. Roosevelt personally organized and led an all-volunteer force of cavalrymen nicknamed the "Rough Riders."

Teddy was also a trailblazer when it came to environmentalism. He established the Forest Service in 1905, which was tasked with preserving and protecting the thousands of acres of national woodlands and parks. 

2. John F. Kennedy - 43 years old

Wax figure of popular US President John F. Kennedy. Editorial credit: 360b / Shutterstock.com
Wax figure of popular US President John F. Kennedy. Editorial credit: 360b / Shutterstock.com

One of the most famous presidents to date, John F. Kennedy's rise to power was a watershed moment in American history. Kennedy spent his early years in the US Navy and was deployed to the Pacific theater during the Second World War against the Japanese Empire. By all accounts, Kennedy served bravely and was awarded the medal for heroism after he led his men to safety when the vessel he was on was sunk by a Japanese torpedo. 

Kennedy was elected president in 1960. His term was defined by the American Civil Rights movement and the Cuban Missile Crisis, both of which were incredibly tense and divisive moments in American history. 

Kennedy would not see a second election as he was assassinated in 1963 by Lee Harvey Oswald while he was riding in his motorcade in Dallas. The killing of Kennedy was another pivotal moment of the decade and remains one of the most studied and infamous events of the latter half of the 20th century. 

3. Bill Clinton - 46 years old

Bill Clinton in 2005. Editorial credit: Anthony Correia / Shutterstock.com.
Bill Clinton in 2005. Editorial credit: Anthony Correia / Shutterstock.com.

Coming into power in 1993, Bill Clinton's time as president was marked by a growing economy, normalizing relationships with post-Soviet Russia, and a handful of sexual scandals. Clinton was the first Democrat president since the short run Jimmy Carter had in the late 1970s. 

Clinton's first taste of politics was as an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War and champion of the Civil Rights movement. Known for his smooth-talking and charismatic nature, Clinton was well-liked by most people he met and was elected governor of Arkansas in 1982. 

Clinton was able to win a second term in 1996 and served until he was replaced by George Bush Jr in 2000. His longest-lasting legacy is arguably the finalization of the NAFTA agreements. This brought about an incredibly successful free trade deal between the North American nations of Canada, the United States, and Mexico that was only replaced by the USMCA in 2020.

4. Ulysses S. Grant - 46 years old

Former US President Ulysses S. Grant.
Former US President Ulysses S. Grant.

Like many other presidents, Ulysses S. Grant started his life as a young man in the United States military. Seeing action in the Mexican-American War, Grant showed promise as a leader who showed considerable bravery. 

By the time of the American Civil War, Grant was given the title of general and was responsible for repelling Southern attacks deep into Union territory. Something that other Union generals had struggled to do. Overcoming his alcoholism and early blunders, Grant proved to be the most effective and capable general the Union had and ultimately led them to victory by 1865.

Riding high off the fame that he had gained in the war, Grant won the 1872 election and served two terms. He did what he could to help rebuild the Southern United States and was a strong supporter of civil rights for newly freed slaves but was largely ineffective in enforcing them. 

5. Barack Obama - 47 years old

Obama at a campaign rally in Charlotte, NC. Editorial credit: Evan El-Amin / Shutterstock.com
Obama at a campaign rally in Charlotte, NC. Editorial credit: Evan El-Amin / Shutterstock.com

Coming to power in 2008 on a platform promising to change the dire economic situation that had just befallen the United States, Barack Obama was the first African-American ever elected to the office of president. 

Obama spent his early political career as Senator of Illinois. His laid-back and personable approach made him stand out from a lineup of carbon copy candidates. His firm term was largely successful, but there were plenty of vocal critics from within his party who complained about slow economic recovery. 

Obama won his second Presidential term in 2012. His second time in office was best remembered for his introduction of a new national healthcare plan and the federal legalization of gay marriage. Internationally, he decreased the role of American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq and also orchestrated the assassination of Osama bin Laden in 2011. 

6. Grover Cleveland - 47 years old

President Grover Cleveland.
President Grover Cleveland.

One of the best-known presidents of the 19th century, Grover Cleveland, lived through a harsh childhood after the death of his father in 1853. Without a breadwinner in the family, Cleveland was forced to halt his education and find work. He finally found steady employment as a district attorney in New York. 

Cleveland briefly served as sheriff of Buffalo, where he was unanimously respected and well-liked by the people of the city. Using this small success, he catapulted himself into the Oval Office in 1885. Cleveland arrived at a time of great corruption within the American government and was seen as a trustworthy force for good that was going to clean up the nation. 

Cleveland did a decent job as president and was able to win a second term. Grover was set to run for a third time in 1898 but was repudiated by his own party. He remains the first and only president to have this happen to them. Grover entered retirement and spent the rest of his life at a family home in New Jersey

7. Franklin Pierce - 48 years old

A portrait of Franklin Pierce​.
A portrait of Franklin Pierce​.

Franklin Pierce is not a well-remembered president, but he was certainly an impactful one. Born in 1804 in New Hampshire, Pierce spent his time as a lawyer before trying his hand at politics in his middle age. 

Pierce became president in 1853, and his time in office is best remembered for his failures rather than his successes. His best-known legacy is in regard to slavery. The topic of slavery was already beginning to rip the nation apart, and Pierce appeared to be ill-equipped to do anything effective to help stem this issue. 

At the time of his election, Pierce was the youngest man to ever be elected president. Sadly, his youth did not help him reelect, and he was soundly defeated. Pierce lived the rest of his life in relative seclusion and obscurity. 

8. James A. Garfield - 49 years old

James Abram Garfield, the 20th President of the United States.
James Abram Garfield, the 20th President of the United States.

One of the shortest reigning presidents ever, James Garfield, came from a background of poverty. The son of a poor Ohio farmer, Garfield found the opportunity for a steady wage in the military. Garfield saw action on the side of the Union in the Civil War and used this to his advantage once he entered politics. 

He became president in 1881, and after only four months in office, Garfield was killed by an assassin while he was standing in a train station in Washington, D.C. Garfield was not killed immediately, and it is generally agreed upon by historians that he would have likely survived the attack if he had received proper medical care. Unfortunately, the doctor who oversaw his surgery botched the procedure, and Garfield died in September of that year. 

The assassin, Charles J. Guiteau, was an eccentric and deranged man who had previously worked at an office before he claimed to have messianic visions commanding him to kill the president. The short term of James Garfield is certainly one of the more bizarre legacies left behind. 

9. James K. Polk - 49 years old

A portrait of James Knox Polk.
A portrait of James Knox Polk.

James Polk started life on his father's farm in rural North Carolina. Polk has always shown a healthy enthusiasm toward education, but his poor background and his father's health kept him tethered to his home. When he was 20, Polk, despite not having any formal education, was able to get into the University of North Carolina.

After his time in university, he fell in with the Democratic Party and quickly rose to the top of the heap. By the early 1840s, he was one of the rising stars of the party and was nominated for president. He was able to win the election in 1844. 

Polk was an unabashed expansionist and made numerous efforts to expand the borders of the United States. Under his watch, the United States won a victory against Mexico for control of the American Southwest and settled a territorial dispute with the British for the Oregon territory.  

10. Millard Fillmore - 50 years old

Millard Fillmore.
Millard Fillmore.

Millard Fillmore, much like Franklin Pierce, is remembered for his inability to solve the issue of slavery in the United States. Fillmore was born into poverty and lived his early childhood in a log cabin. He received a semi-formal education when he was 15 and used this to his advantage. 

He worked in a law office shortly, then got into politics when he was still in his early 20s. He joined the Whig Party and quickly rose through the ranks using his rags-to-riches story to appeal to the average voter. He became president in 1850, following the death of President Zachary Taylor. 

While Fillmore was personally against slavery, he did little to help resolve some of the tension surrounding the issue. His lack of action only worsened the North-South divide and pushed the United States further on the path of civil war.  

US Presidents Ranked from Youngest to Oldest

Rank President Age at the start of the presidency
1 Theodore Roosevelt 42 years, 322 days
2 John F. Kennedy 43 years, 236 days
3 Bill Clinton 46 years, 154 days
4 Ulysses S. Grant 46 years, 311 days
5 Barack Obama 47 years, 169 days
6 Grover Cleveland 47 years, 351 days
7 Franklin Pierce 48 years, 101 days
8 James A. Garfield 49 years, 105 days
9 James K. Polk 49 years, 122 days
10 Millard Fillmore 50 years, 183 days
11 William Howard Taft 51 years, 170 days
12 Calvin Coolidge 51 years, 29 days
13 Franklin D. Roosevelt 51 years, 33 days
14 Chester A. Arthur 51 years, 349 days
15 John Tyler 51 years, 6 days
16 Jimmy Carter 52 years, 111 days
17 Abraham Lincoln 52 years, 20 days
18 Rutherford B. Hayes 54 years, 151 days
19 George W. Bush 54 years, 198 days
20 Herbert Hoover 54 years, 206 days
21 William McKinley 54 years, 34 days
22 Martin Van Buren 54 years, 89 days
23 Warren G. Harding 55 years, 122 days
24 Benjamin Harrison 55 years, 196 days
25 Grover Cleveland 55 years, 351 days
26 Lyndon B. Johnson 55 years, 87 days
27 Andrew Johnson 56 years, 107 days
28 Richard Nixon 56 years, 11 days
29 Woodrow Wilson 56 years, 66 days
30 John Quincy Adams 57 years, 236 days
31 Thomas Jefferson 57 years, 325 days
32 James Madison 57 years, 353 days
33 George Washington 57 years, 67 days
34 James Monroe 58 years, 310 days
35 Harry S. Truman 60 years, 339 days
36 John Adams 61 years, 125 days
37 Gerald Ford 61 years, 26 days
38 Andrew Jackson 61 years, 354 days
39 Dwight D. Eisenhower 62 years, 98 days
40 Zachary Taylor 64 years, 100 days
41 George H. W. Bush 64 years, 222 days
42 James Buchanan 65 years, 315 days
43 William Henry Harrison 68 years, 23 days
44 Ronald Reagan 69 years, 349 days
45 Donald Trump 70 years, 220 days
46 Joe Biden 78 years, 61 days

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