Who will be known as the "Millard Fillmores" of the 20th century?

Some U.S. presidents are just unforgettable characters–love 'em or hate 'em, Ronald Reagan, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton will get a lot of ink in the history books 100 years from now.

But with the passage of time, some presidents are eventually consigned to obscurity. This seems to be especially true of a certain stretch of presidents prior to Lincoln. Mention Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, or Franklin Pierce, and most people would be hard-pressed to name anything remarkable associated with their administrations. Maybe someone who is really a history or general trivia buff would tell you about Taylor was a hero of the Mexican-American War or that Fillmore supported the 1850 compromise. But generally speaking, it seems that these are the presidents that history forgot.

Which 20th century presidents will come to be known as the “Millard Fillmores” of their century? Why?

Heck, I once met a guy – born, raised and educated in the U.S.A. – who didn’t believe me when I said that there was a President named Millard Fillmore. Sheesh.

Having said that, no particular 20th century Prezes come to mind.

If I had to guess, I’d say Hoover. He seems the least exciting. Sure, he did a decent amount of stuff, but none of it had sex appeal, like the Cuban missle crisis, or WWII, or anything else like that.

I’d say Gerald Ford was about as Millard Fillmore as it gets.

I’d have to say that Calvin Coolidge is the leading candidate for least interesting president of the 20th century. And truth be told,
I don’t know much about W.H. Taft. Other than being famous for being overweight and unwittingly starting the tradition of the seventh inning stretch, I don’t believe his presidency was all that interesting, though he has his stretch as Chief Justice to fall back on. Ford’s pardon of Nixon saves him from Fillmore-ness, even though he wasn’t around for long. And Hoover? The stink of the Great Depression will keep him in the history books.

To be honest, I don’t really know very much about Ike’s presidency. I mean, I know he was a general and stuff, and he had a great slogan, but he isn’t the most memorable prez. Coolidge and Carter might be pretty forgettable, too (I really LIKE Carter, but he didn’t do very much, and in 150 years, I don’t think many people’ll remember about the Iran Hostage Crisis (at least, not very much).


Maybe, perhaps, he was too silent for the history books. :wink:

If I had to say who’d be the 20th Century’s Millard Fillmores, I’d have to go with everyone prior to Woodrow Wilson. I can’t think of who comes before him until we get to Teddy Roosevelt. Everyone since then is going to be remember fairly well.

You’ve got Wilson who had World War I and his efforts to maintain neutrality, and you’ve got his failure to get the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations approved in the US. You’ve got Harding with his Teapot Dome scandal and early death followed by Coolidge who presided over the carefree prosperous 1920s (a chicken in every pot, a car in every garage and all that). You’ve got Hoover who will probably be regarded as a failure since he inherited a booming economy and wasn’t able to handle it’s slippage into the Great Depression.

Next you’ve got Roosevelt with his record four consecutive election wins and his leadership through the Great Depression and World War II. You’ll also think of really big government. Following him is Truman with his ordering the dropping of Fat Man and Little Boy, reconstruction of Europe, the beginning of the Cold War, and a squeaker of a win over Dewey. Eisenhower will be remembered for the Korean Conflict, the interstate system, and for the stability of the 1950s. Kennedy has Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, the U2 incident, and his assasination.

Johnson will be remembered for the Great Society, civil rights, and escalating our involvement in the Vietnam conflict. You’ve got Nixon next who’ll be remembered for getting us out of Vietnam eventually, his trip to China, Watergate, and his resignation. Ford may have only served two years, but he’ll be remembered for pardoning Nixon (but that’s probably all he’ll be remembered for). Carter will be remembered for the Iran hostage crisis and the failed attempts to rescue the hostages. Reagan will be remembered for our debt, our military build-ups, Iran-Contra, Challenger, and his assasination attempt.

G. H. W. Bush will be remembered for “read my lips – no new taxes” as well as the first Gulf War. You’ve got Clinton with Whitewater and the string of scandals and non-scandals following it all the way to impeachment and Monica Lewinsky. He’ll also be remembered for the booming economy of the 1990s and the failure on gays in the military and universal healthcare.

That’s what I could quickly come up with, and I am absolutely horrible when it comes to American history. I figure most Americans would be able to do the same, although I suppose of the ones I’ve mentioned Harding, Ford, and Carter are the most likely to require some thinking time.

A hundred years from now, Bush Sr. will be a brief footnote between Reagan and Clinton. The (first) Gulf War will be a minor footnote, and he did nothing else of note.

I’m not sure Ford or Carter will be particularly remembered – though Carter might be, more for his post-presidential activities.

Quite frankly, I think Clinton will be a Millard Fillmore. I think his seeming importance is only due to our direct memory of him, but I don’t think he did much, if anything, that will be quickly called to mind as a historical event.

I’ll bet that even during the Civil War, folks talked about Buchanan, Pierce, and yes, Fillmore too. Those who seem important to us quite likely will not be in a century.

I’d say the “Fillmores” of the 20th century will be Taft, Coolidge, Harding, Hoover (how many people really connect his name with the Depression?), Nixon, Ford, Carter, Bush I and Clinton.

I don’t think that Nixon’s or Clinton’s scandals will be more than a historical footnote. And the things they did accomplish are likely to be overlooked because the scandals came to define their presidencies.

Eisenhower will be a 20th-century “Grant” (name remembered more for having been a general who became president than for anything he did as president - a shame, really, as the Interstate system was begun in his administration and it’s one of the biggest conveniences in America today that we take for granted).

The remainder will be remembered for their actual terms of office.

I disagree on Nixon – his trip to China was the beginning of the end of the Cold War.

I agree with everything cmkeller wrote.

The only thing I can add is that Kennedy will be forgotten too. (Remember Garfield? I didn’t think so?) Maybe his efforts to boost the space program will keep his memory alive past the death of the generation that has fixated on his assassination, but probably not.

That would be William Howard Taft and only William Howard Taft.

Frankly I think history will bother with only T. Roosevelt, Wilson, FDR, Truman, Nixon and Reagan. All the rest of them will be relegated to more or less Fillmore status. That doesn’t mean the rest were bad (or good) just not historic.

See? Told you I was bad at American history. :wink:

I think Ford has the distinction of being the only president not elected by the people, so he’ll forever hold a place in Trivial Pursuit games and on quiz shows.

GHWBush will most likely be remember if for no other reason than his son was elected 8 years later. I mean, jeez, how often does that happen?

Clinton will be lumped with Andrew Jackson as impeached presidents. Nixon’ll be remembered for resigning. China won’t be such a big deal 150 years from now. So what if he got us back into China. It’s important now, but national alliances come and go throughout history. 150 years from now people won’t know or care why we weren’t “in” China to begin with, and they really won’t care who got us “back.”

Forgettable: Reagan, Carter, Johnson and those other guys before FDR.


Okay, all together now. “But what about Rutherford B. Hayes and George W. Bush?”

Now that we have that out of the way, I’ll list my “Fillmore’s”.

In no particular order:

  1. Hoover.

  2. Coolidge.

  3. Clinton(though impeachment will always be mentioned, since he’s only the second). Sorry to go into detail here, but I think this one is the most controversial(because he’s so recent). Truth is, while he did a lot of good in the eyes of many living today, I don’t think people 150 years from now will look back on any of it. Not his fault, and doesn’t take away from who he is, but it’s true.

  4. Carter.

  5. Of course, Ford.

  6. George H.W. Bush.

Happy Lendervedder writes: “Clinton will be lumped with Andrew Jackson as impeached presidents.”

It was Andrew Johnson who was impeached.

Of course you’re right, I should’ve remembered that from that spam-mail comparing the Kennedy and Lincoln. “Both were succeeded by southerners named Johnson.”


Isn’t Carter the only president in quite some time that didn’t get to nominate any Supreme Court justices? That might be a strike against him.

But are people really going to forget Jimmy Carter and the Giant Swimming Rabbit? That would be so sad, that was comedy gold, trumped only by Gerald Ford falling down all the time.

The irony about Ford’s klutzy image is that he was perhaps the best athlete among 20th century presidents.