Surprising Photos Of U.S. Presidents Before They Became President

By | May 16, 2016

From Ronald Reagan posing as a sculpture model to Bill Clinton pictured with his treasured saxophone, here are 12 photos that give us a peek at the life of some U.S. presidents years before they took office in the White House.

1. Harry Truman In His Clothing Store



Before entering politics, Harry Truman opened a haberdashery in Kansas City, Missouri, after he returned from World War I. The store closed down two years later, during the 1921 recession. He became president 25 years later.

2. Dwight Eisenhower The Day Before D-Day



In 1944, Dwight Eisenhower was the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe. Here he is photographed briefing paratroopers in the 101st Airborne Division on June 5th, the day before D-Day, and hours before they would take off and be dropped behind enemy lines. Eisenhower became president nine years later.

3. John F. Kennedy In His Patrol Boat



Despite having initially been medically disqualified, John F. Kennedy served in WWII commanding patrol torpedo boats. Here, he is seen on his most famous boat, the PT-109. It was rammed by a Japanese destroyer and was sinking when Kennedy rallied the survivors. They swam to a nearby island instead of surrendering. He towed a badly hurt crewman to the island by pulling the man's life jacket strap between his clenched teeth. Kennedy became president 18 years later.

4. Lyndon Johnson As A Child



Lyndon Johnson grew up in a farmhouse in Stonewall, Texas. Here he is in 1915, at the age of 7. He was John Kennedy's vice president and took over the presidency when the president was assassinated in 1963, 48 years after this photo was taken.

5. Richard Nixon On The Whittier Football Team



Richard Nixon tried out for the football team at Whittier College in 1933, but was too small to play. Showing his enthusiasm to join the team, he stayed as a substitute. Nixon became president 36 years later.

6. Gerald Ford On The Michigan Football Team



Nixon's presidential replacement, Gerald Ford, had a much more successful football career. Ford plays for the Michigan team and was considered a star, playing center, linebacker and long snapper. He helped lead the team to undefeated seasons and national titles in 1932 and 1933, when this photo was taken. Ford became president 41 years later.

7. Jimmy Carter On His Wedding Day



Jimmy Carter's dream was to attend the Naval Academy, but being short and skinny, he barely met the minimum requirements for the Academy. However, after taking additional math classes, he was admitted. Soon after graduating from the Academy in 1946, Carter married Rosalynn Smith, a friend of his sister's. This picture is from their wedding day. Carter would become president 30 years later.

8. Ronald Reagan Poses For An Art Class



In 1937, Ronald Reagan took a Hollywood screen test and soon enough, snatched a seven-year contract with Warner Brothers. He starred in dozens of films during his Hollywood career. Here he is posing for a sculpture class around 1940. Reagan would become president 40 years later.

9. George H.W. Bush Poses With Babe Ruth



After serving in World War II as a pilot fighting in the Pacific, George H. W. Bush entered college at Yale University late. As captain of the baseball team, he was the one to receive Babe Ruth's manuscript of his autobiography, which Ruth was donating to Yale in 1948. Bush became president 39 years later.

10. Bill Clinton Poses With His Tenor Saxophone



Bill Clinton was good a good saxophone player — really good. By high school he had won first chair in the Arkansas state band's sax section. Here he is pictured with his instrument at age 12. Instead of pursuing a musical career, he opted to enter politics. Clinton became president 35 years later.

11. George W. Bush While Serving In The National Guard



George Bush served as a pilot in the Texas Air National Guard during the Vietnam War. He was honorably discharged from the service in 1973. His time of war service became an issue during the 2004 presidential campaign. "60 Minutes Wednesday" published memos which suggest Bush had received special treatment. The memos were later proven to be fake. Bush became president 32 years after this photo was taken.

12. Barack Obama



This photo was taken in the fall of 1988 when Barack Obama entered Harvard Law School. He is holding a copy of the Harvard Law Review. Obama became the first black president of the Law Review during his 2nd year at Harvard, and became the first black American president 18 years later.