A Brief Primer on Presidents and North Carolina

When you think of a state with a rich presidential legacy, chances are you think of Virginia (home to eight men who have held the nation’s top job) or Ohio (home to seven), but North Carolina has some rich presidential history of its own, and in honor of Presidents Day, we’ve share some of it here.

James K. Polk

How Many Presidents Are From North Carolina? It’s Debatable.

If you visit the State Capitol in Raleigh, you’ll see a statue honoring the three “Presidents North Carolina Gave the Nation,” but many sources list just two presidents as calling the Tar Heel State home. The debate surrounds Andrew Jackson, who was born right on then unmarked line between North and South Carolina.

James K. Polk, our 11th president, was born in the Carolina borderlands as well, though farther west near Pineville. Polk is perhaps best remembered for spearheading the Mexican-American War, which greatly increased the size of United States, and a memorial representing his birthplace is now one of 27 state historic sites.

Andrew JohnsonThe 17th president, Andrew Johnson, was born in a kitchen in Raleigh and ascended to the nation’s top job after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The only U.S. senator who remained loyal to the Union during the Civil War, Johnson was impeached for his handling of Reconstruction, though he was acquitted at trial.

While North Carolina claims all three presidents as native sons, all were elected to office while residents of Tennessee.

A Few Notable Presidential Visits

Our friends at the North Carolina Collection at UNC-Chapel Hill have noted that every president since Chester A. Arthur, who was in office between 1881 and 1885, except for Warren Harding, has visited North Carolina.

We’ve mapped five of the more interesting visits below, from our first president’s stay at Tryon Palace to the time President Lyndon Johnson’s kicked off a tour of Appalachia in Rocky Mount, hundreds of miles from the region.

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Explore More With Our Collections and Other Resources

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At left, A bumper sticker from Terry Sanford's 1976 presidential campaign, now held by the N.C. Museum of History.

Our collections are abound in photographs, campaign ephemera, documents and artwork related to our nation’s 44 chief executives. Start exploring on our digital collections and collections database. The Presidential Signatures portion of the Treasures of the State Archives and State Library is a great place to begin, too.

Our This Day in North Carolina History Project contains more interesting anecdotes connected to the U.S. presidents from First Lady Dolley Madison’s dramatic rescue of White House treasures to the mysterious connection between Raleigh and the JFK assassinationCheck out NCpedia for more in-depth explorations of people, places and topics related to the presidency.