Sometimes, certain families have more power and influence in a society than others do. Like all nations, America is no stranger to this phenomenon. There have been plenty of political dynasties which have shaped United States history from its founding onward. Some of these are well known, while other family networks are surprises to the average American. Here is my assessment of the top ten political families throughout United States history.
10. The Udalls
The Udalls are a powerful family in the Western United States. In 1851, a David King Udall was born in St. Louis, MO. His family, which had just arrived from England, journeyed to Utah in 1852.
David ended up being a representative in the Arizona Territorial legislature later in his life. In a funny historical turn of events, David was convicted of perjury because he backed up a land dispute involving Mitt Romney’s great-grandfather. His bail in the situation was even posted by Barry Goldwater’s father.
David’s descendants, who would come to be known as the Udall family, have been elected to high office in many Western states. Last year, before Senator Mark Udall’s defeat in the 2014 midterm elections, there were three family members serving at once in the United States Senate: Mike Lee from Utah, Tom Udall from New Mexico, and Mark Udall from Colorado. Before that, there was Senator Gordon H. Smith from Oregon, who served two terms from 1997 to 2009. They also have a former representative and Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall, in their family history.
9. The Rockefellers
Everyone is familiar with John D. Rockefeller, the famous (or infamous depending on who you ask) founder of Standard Oil. The Rockefellers aren’t just a political family of course, they are a business family, philanthropic family, and so much more.
When it comes to elected offices, they’ve certainly held their fair share of seats. Nelson Rockefeller is the most famous of these, having been both Governor of New York and Vice President under Gerald Ford.
Other members include Winthrop Rockefeller, the first Republican Governor of Arkansas, his son who was the Lieutenant Governor of Arkansas, and Senator Jay Rockefeller from West Virginia.
8. The Carters
Jimmy Carter was the Governor of Georgia and President of the United States, but his family has a larger history in the state of Georgia and in politics generally. Jimmy’s father was a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, and Jimmy’s son is a politician and businessman who ran for Senate in Nevada. Jason Carter, Jimmy Carter’s grandson, is currently a state Senator in Georgia. He ran for Governor in 2014 and lost to Nathan Deal, but Jason Carter is still only forty years old, meaning his political future is very much in the air.
7. The Clintons
Many would only consider the Clintons a forming political family, since they only have two political members for the time being. But, because both of them are so high profile, I feel they deserve to be included on this list. Bill Clinton was President of the United States and Governor of Arkansas. Hillary Clinton is considered a favorite to be President after winning in 2016 herself, and was previously Secretary of State and a Senator. Their daughter Chelsea has also shown an interest in running for office, saying she is “absolutely” open to it.
6. The Tafts
Most Americans are unaware of the power and reach of the American Taft family. The Tafts have produced multiple senators, governors, judges, and of course a President.
William Howard Taft was the most famous of the Tafts. He was President for one term, and then served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court after being nominated for the position by President Harding. His father was Alphonso Taft, who was Attorney General and Secretary of War under Ulysses S. Grant. President Taft’s son, Robert A. Taft, was a Senator from Ohio who ran for President multiple times, and that’s all in just one paternal line in the Taft family.
5. The Roosevelts
The Roosevelts came to New York back when it was still “New Amsterdam”, pre-United States. The family is responsible for producing important Americans such as Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Franklin D. Roosevelt, as well as Eleanor Roosevelt, who was part of the family herself, and didn’t just marry in.
The Roosevelt family’s political success started with Nicholas Roosevelt, who was the first of them to hold elected office, as an alderman. The family members have held many different political positions in New York and nationally since then.
4. The Adams
Like the Roosevelts, the Adams have put out two United States Presidents, the second, John Adams, and the sixth, John Quincy Adams. Their members played a role in the country’s founding all the way up to the early 20th century.
The Adams also have a distant connection with Millard Fillmore, William Taft, Calvin Coolidge, and Dick Cheney, through Henry Squire, a common ancestor of all.
3. The Harrisons
The Harrisons are the third family on the list so far with two American presidents. They have William Henry Harrison and Benjamin Harrison. However, their family is far more ingrained in our country than that. Benjamin Harrison V was a signatory on the Declaration of Independence. Their family list is peppered with notable members who were governors and senators as well.
2. The Kennedys
The Kennedys have been called “American Royalty”, and rightfully so. P.J. Kennedy, the founder of the Kennedy political family, was the son of an Irish immigrant and a large figure in Boston politics.
The Kennedys are still active today, with multiple members in public office, even after producing three very consequential figures in 20th century American history: the brothers JFK, RFK, and Ted Kennedy.
1. The Bushes
It’s fairly unknown just how far back the Bush legacy goes. The Bushes were essentially founders of Republican ideology, starting with Obadiah Bush, who served as vice president of the American Anti-Slavery Society and supported the Underground Railroad. His grandson, Samuel P. Bush, served a key role in World War I on the War Industries Board, was later on the Board of the Cleveland Fed, and the President’s Committee for Unemployment Relief during the Great Depression.
Samuel’s son, Prescott Bush, was a Senator from Connecticut. His son was George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States. And of course, his sons are George and Jeb Bush, Governors of Texas and Florida, one of whom was President, the other of whom is trying to become the 45th. If Jeb succeeds in doing that, the Bush family would become the first to have three different Presidents in their ranks.