If you consider that in 1958 a guy named John F. Kennedy, who worked in the stockroom of a razor factory, ran for the office of treasurer of Massachusetts, and won on the strength of his name alone, you might begin to think there’s more in a name than you presumed—especially if your name happens to be the same as Senator John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s.

There’s more than a little irony in this story, given that JFK’s dad did essentially the same thing to help JFK get elected the first time he ran for office.

The year was 1946, and Kennedy was running for Congress. Joe Sr. was worried that a popular Boston city councilman, Joseph Russo, would get the upper hand in the race, so he cleverly went out and found another Joe Russo and paid him to put his name on the ballot.

In the end the two Joes split the Russo vote, and JFK won the election.

By the way, the JFK name not only bought the second Mr. Kennedy the election, it also allowed him to do it dirt cheap. In fact, his total campaign expenses amounted to about one hundred dollars—most of which was spent to throw an election-night party.

Gerald Ford:

When Gerald Ford was born he was given the name Leslie Lynch King, but when his father died and his mother remarried, he was given his adoptive father’s name: Gerald Ford. Therefore, punsters like to point out, Gerald Ford is the only president “born a King.”

John F. Kennedy:

JFK called his daughter, Caroline, “Buttons,” and she called him “Silly Daddy.” JFK called John Jr. “Foo Foo Head.”

Harry Truman:

Harry Truman called his wife, Bess, “The Boss” and his daughter, Margaret, “the one who bosses ‘The Boss.’” The Secret Service called Truman, his wife, and his daughter “The Three Musketeers.”

“I was supposed to be named Harrison Shippe Truman, taking the middle name from my paternal grandfather. Others in the family wanted my middle name to be Solomon, taken from my maternal grandfather. But apparently no agreement could be reached and my name was recorded and stands simply as Harry S Truman.”

—Harry Truman

Note the absence of a period after his middle initial; since it doesn’t stand for anything it’s technically not an initial and therefore does not require traditional punctuation.

Woodrow Wilson:

Folk singer Woodie Guthrie was named after Woodrow Wilson; his real name was Woodrow Wilson Guthrie.

Abe Lincoln:

Lincoln Logs were, in fact, named after Abraham Lincoln and the log cabin where Abe was born. Interestingly, Lincoln Logs were invented by John Lloyd Wright, the son of the famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

William Henry Harrison:

Boxer Jack Dempsey was named after President William Henry Harrison, believe it or not. Dempsey’s real name was William Harrison Dempsey.

James Monroe:

The capital of the nation of Liberia is called Monrovia in honor of President James Monroe.

Richard Nixon:

Everyone’s got a namesake, and Richard Nixon’s was King Richard the Lion-Hearted.


It took good planning on the part of the Johnson family to get every member to have the same LBJ initials: Lyndon Baines, Lady Bird, Lynda Bird, and Luci Baines. As LBJ told it, when it came to monogramming, it made things a whole lot cheaper.

Andrew Jackson:

Andrew Jackson Borden, a mortician from Fall River, Massachusetts, had the honor of being named after the seventh president. But he is more famous for being murdered by his youngest daughter, Lizzie.

Barack Obama:

From his 2006 book, The Audacity of Hope:

… I had lunch with a media consultant who had been encouraging me for some time to run for statewide office. As it happened, the lunch was scheduled for late September 2001.

“You realize, don’t you, that the political dynamics have changed,” he said as he picked at his salad.

“What do you mean?” I asked, knowing full well what he meant. We both looked down at the newspaper beside him. There, on the front page, was Osama bin Laden.

“Hell of a thing, isn’t it?” he said, shaking his head. “Really bad luck. You can’t change your name, of course. Voters are suspicious of that kind of thing. Maybe if you were at the start of your career, you know, you could use a nickname or something. But now … ” His voice trailed off and he shrugged apologetically before signaling the waiter to bring us the check.

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