Chris Lamb: All Presidents’ Fathers | Column

This type of father-child supportive relationship is common, except perhaps in politics.

Former congressman and political reporter Barron YoungSmith wrote an article for Slate with the headline: “Why Are So Many Politicians Having Problems With Their Daddy?” “American politics,” he writes, “is full of stories of absent fathers, alcoholic fathers, neglectful fathers.

All the fathers of presidentsGerald Ford’s father, Leslie Lynch King Sr., was a violent alcoholic. Ford’s mother left King 16 days after the future president was born, when her husband threatened her and her baby with a butcher’s knife. Ford’s mother married Gerald Rudolff Ford. When he was 22, Ford changed his name from Leslie Lynch King Jr. to Gerald Rudolph Ford.

Jimmy Carter’s father, James Earl Carter Sr., was a high school dropout who encouraged his son to read, a hard worker who urged his son to work hard, and a devoted husband and father. He served in the Georgia legislature but died during his first term of pancreatic cancer at the age of 58.

Unlike other presidents, Jimmy Carter didn’t have to look for his father, who never left. Carter’s upbringing contrasted both with Ford, the man who came before him in the White House, and Reagan, the one who followed him.

YoungSmith wrote that Ronald Reagan remained haunted when he found “his alcoholic father on the porch… his hair filled with snow”. Reagan said his father was “drunk, dead to the world.” Reagan, who was 11 at the time, had to drag his father into the house. He spent the rest of his life trying to connect with a man who wasn’t there for him.


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Rhonda Lee

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