Presidents’ Day Names: The mighty middles–Quincy, Knox and Gamaliel

By Linda Rosenkrantz

On previous Presidents’ Days, we’ve looked at the first and last names of the Chief Executives, their wives and their children’s appellations.  So what’s left?

Their middle names! And in this era of middle-name mania, we think they merit our attention.

Many of the early people in this position did not have middle names, having come to the office before the practice became so prevalent. A significant number bore their mothers’ maiden names; a few others switched the first and middle and so became know by the name listed below.  One—Gerald Ford—changed his name completely.

So, if you don’t like any of the Presidents’ first or second name, here’s an alternative option.

AbramJames A. Garfield was the 20th president.  Abram was the name of his father, a wrestler who died when he was an infant.

AlanChester A. Arthur followed Garfield as the 21st president. He was born in 1829, a year when the name Alan was not very well used. though it dates back to the time of Robin Hood.

Baines—36th President Lyndon Johnson was the son of Rebekah Baines Johnson, who descended from a distinguished family of Baineses. Baines is a Scotttish surname related to bones.

Birchard—As if Rutherford weren’t heavy enough for future President Hayes to carry, he also inherited his mother’s maiden name, kind of an arboreal cousin of Richard. Unusual names ran in the family—his mother’s brother was Sardis.

Calvin30th President John Calvin Coolidge, Jr. clearly considered his middle name more distinctive than the first name he shared with his father.

ClarkHerbert Clark Hoover (#31) was born into a Quaker family that called him Bertie.

David34th Pres. , born David Dwight Eisenhower, was another who did a name switch, probably because David was his father’s name.

DelanoDelano was the maiden name of 32nd President Franklin Roosevelt’s domineering mother Sarah.

EarlJames Earl Carter, Jr.—one of a disproportionate number of juniors to reach the country’s highest office—insisted on the use of his informal , non-presidential nickname Jimmy.

FitzgeraldJohn F. Kennedy carried yet another mother’s maiden moniker: Rose Fitzgerald was the daughter of powerful politico John FrancisHoney FitzFitzgerald, Mayor of Boston.

GamalielThis is the G in Warren G. Harding—a Hebrew biblical name not likely to see much use in the 21st century. Harding, nicknamed Winnie by his family, was the 29th President of the United States.

Grover22nd and 24th President Cleveland—the only one to serve two non-consecutive terms– dropped his first name of Stephen in favor of his middle, Grover.

HenryThe ninth President of the US was William Henry Harrison, who previously held many other high political positions and, incidentally, fathered ten children.

Herbert—One of the two middle names of George Herbert Walker Bush, the 41st President, and father of #43. Walker was the maiden name of his mother, Dorothy.

Howard27th President William Howard Taft was born into a powerful political family—his father, Alphonso, was Secretary of War and Attorney General under President U. S. Grant.

HusseinBarack Hussein Obama II was given the name of his Kenyan father; Hussein was the name taken by his grandfather when he converted to Islam.

Jefferson42nd President Bill Clinton was born William Jefferson Blythe, Jr., inheriting the name of his father, who died in an accident before he was born.

KnoxJames Knox Polk, the eleventh President, was named for his maternal grandfather, James Knox.

Milhous—Richard Milhous Nixon was another who was given his mother’s maiden name as a middle. He and three of his brothers were named for legendary kings of England: Richard was in honor of Richard the Lionhearted.

QuincyThe middle name of sixth President John Quincy Adams has considerable historical significance: his mother’s maternal grandfather was Colonel John Quincy, after whom Quincy, Massachusetts.

RudolphBorn Leslie Lynch King, Jr., the President we know as Jerry Ford adopted the name of his mother’s second husband, Gerald Rudolph Ford.

S. S stands for nothing in the middle of President Harry Truman’s name, which seems to have been a practice in certain Scots-Irish families.  His parents chose the initial S to please both the baby’s grandfathers—Anderson Shipp Truman and Solomon YoungHarry’s brother did get a middle name—Vivian.

UlyssesHe was born Hiram Ulysses Grant. The change came as a result of his being mistakenly registered at West Point as Ulysses S. Grant, which he reputedly was happy to accept as a way of ridding himself of the embarrassing initials H.U.G.

WalkerWalker served as the familial middle name of both Bush presidents, and was the source of the younger George’s nickname “W.”

WilsonRonald Reagan’s middle name was not chosen in honor of the 28th President, but rather his mother, born Nelle Wilson.  His father gave him his lifelong nickname “Dutch,” as in “fat little Dutchman” and referencing his son’s Dutch boy haircut.

WoodrowThomas Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President, grew up being called Tommy.  He began going by his middle name around the time he started his teaching career at Bryn Mawr College.


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7 Responses to “Presidents’ Day Names: The mighty middles–Quincy, Knox and Gamaliel”

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lesliemarion Says:

February 12th, 2014 at 11:49 pm

I love presidents’ and first ladies’ names. Such hearty names!

southern.maple Says:

February 13th, 2014 at 12:09 am

I hardly see why Gamaliel is unlikely in the 21st century when we have Ezekiel, Abraham, Malachi, Emmanuel, Nathaniel, Josiah, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Gabriel, and Elijah in the top 200.

Grover needs to come back. I long to meet a quirky, energetic little boy named Grover.

KateMP91 Says:

February 13th, 2014 at 12:48 am

Such a great list! I love Delano, Knox, Quincy, Walker, and S, in particular!

Delano is unique, but wholesome.

Knox is full of energy and history!

Quincy is the name of my hometown. A classmate recently named her daughter Quincy!

Walker is just plain cool.

S just made me smile. What a funny tradition!

namefan Says:

February 13th, 2014 at 4:36 pm

Re: Gerald Ford – his case (as per Wikipedia) was not him deciding to go by a different name, but rather he was renamed informally when his mother remarried (he wasn’t formally adopted, but did make the Ford name official once he became an adult).

miloowen Says:

February 13th, 2014 at 8:47 pm

You should have probably made the distinction between the local New England pronunciation Quinsey — voiced s — as opposed to Quincy — soft c.

I think I like Knox the best, if only because I love Knox County, Maine.

What I Learned in February – Says:

February 27th, 2014 at 9:01 am

[…] A surprisingly large number of American presidents are known by their middle names. Among them are Calvin Coolidge (born John Calvin Coolidge, Jr.) and Woodrow Wilson (whose given […]

LunaCross Says:

May 2nd, 2014 at 6:50 pm

For the trivia tridbit of Ulysses, you should tell everyone that my ancestor is Ulysses, since he is on my mom’s side.

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