America has a long history of public officials coming from rural backgrounds who participated in farming, ranching, hunting, and/or fishing. These traditions help to develop many positive personal qualities that translate to leadership positions.
Being that today is Presidents Day, we thought we’d take a look at a few of our modern Commanders-in-Chief who had agricultural or sportsmen roots.
When discussing modern presidents who supported rural tradition, there is no better place to start than leader and war hero: Dwight D. Eisenhower.
Eisenhower was an avid hunter and angler. During his overseeing of the liberation of France as the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during WWII, he even stopped to go on a partridge hunt in North Africa.
He was quoted saying, “There are three (sports) that I like all for the same reason – golf, fishing, and shooting – because they take you into the fields. They induce you to take at any one time two to three hours, when you are thinking of the bird or ball or the wily trout. Now, to my mind, it is a very healthful, beneficial kind of thing, and I do it whenever I get a chance.”
We then move to the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson, the epitome of the American rancher. Johnson was born on his aunt’s ranch, which would later become his, and grew it from its original 250 acres to 2,700, on which he took care of his herd of 400 head of Hereford cattle.
Not only is he famous for hosting his first ever presidential dinner as a BBQ – where he hosted German Chancellor Ludwig Erhart – but he hosted many presidential dinners on his ranch, and was buried there after his death in 1973.
The next farming president of note is Jimmy Carter. He grew up on his parents’ Plains, Georgia peanut farm, and even participated in FFA while in high school.
He took over operations of the farm after his father’s death in ’53, and by 1970 he was known as a wealthy peanut farmer. He was quoted speaking of his time on the farm saying, “The early years of my life on the farm were full and enjoyable, isolated but not lonely. We always had enough to eat, no economic hardship, but no money to waste. We felt close to nature, close to members of our family, and close to God.”
Like many farmers, he also participated in hunting and fishing. Remembered for displaying a muzzle-loaded rifle in his private White House office, Carter took many hunting trips with friends and family.
Although he took the least days of vacation of all modern presidents, 79, he spent much of that time out hunting or fishing. Old habits die hard, and Carter once commented that he “had a fishing pole and rifle in his hand since he could remember.”
These modern presidents would make our founders proud for carrying on the rural traditions that make America great.