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The 7 Oldest Presidents in History

July 30, 2020 in History

By Patrick J. Kiger

The Founding Fathers only set an age minimum for U.S. presidents—not a maximum.

When the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention pondered the question of what age a president should be, the big concern wasn’t about the office-holder being too elderly, but too youthful.

George Mason was the principal advocate for age requirements for elective federal office, and his views were inscribed into the Constitution—over the objections of James Wilson,” explains John Seery, the George Irving Thompson Memorial Professor of Government and Professor of Politics at Pomona College, and author of the book Too Young to Run. “Rather than making a positive case in favor of the superior wisdom and maturity of elders, Mason derided the ‘deficiency of young politicians’ whose political opinions at the age of 21 would be ‘too crude & erroneous to merit an influence on public measures.’

“A generational smear, not an argument, won the day.”

As a result, Article II in the U.S. Constitution specifies a minimum age—35—but doesn’t set a maximum. In many instances, that’s enabled voters to elect presidents in their sixties and even in their seventies, an age when many ordinary citizens have retired.

WATCH: ‘The Presidents’ on HISTORY Vault

To some observers, the lack of an age limit for the nation’s highest office heightens the risk of getting a president who isn’t up to the rigors of the job. “I’m concerned about age-related dementia, which the job can accelerate given the pressure of the office,” explains Gary J. Schmitt, a resident scholar in strategic studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “But I’m also concerned about the higher percentage of the chance of death while in office, meaning we will be voting for one candidate but getting someone else who we have not vetted as seriously.”

If President Franklin Roosevelt had died while Henry A. Wallace was vice president instead of Harry Truman, for example, “U.S. history would likely have taken a quite different turn,” Schmitt notes.

Even so, with a few exceptions, most elderly U.S. presidents seem to have been remarkably vigorous and capable. Here’s a list of the seven who were the oldest when they left office.

Ronald Reagan

President Ronald Reagan in 1980 in Los Angeles, California.

Born February 6, 1911, the nation’s 40th president was 77 years and 349 days old at the completion of his second term in January 1989. While campaigning …read more


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