John Calvin Coolidge Jr., our 30th President, 1923-1929, was perhaps America’s most under-rated chief executive. He was a man of few words, decisive action and a dry sense of humor.
“Silent Cal” was born on the Fourth of July in 1872 in Vermont, the son of a prominent local farmer, general store owner, postmaster and politician. He was the only president born on Independence Day, although three former presidents died on the Fourth.
His father, John Sr., served as a justice of the peace and Vermont legislator. His mother and only sibling both died by the time Coolidge was 15, but his father lived past 80.
Coolidge moved to Massachusetts, where he spent his pre-presidential years, when he enrolled at Amherst College. His early career was spent in the Pioneer Valley on the Connecticut River, apprenticing at a Northampton law firm to avoid the cost of law school. His political activities began there too.
Unlike today, the Republican Party was the dominant party in Massachusetts politics at that time. Coolidge started his political career campaigning for Republican William McKinley for president in 1896, and caught the attention of the local Republican committee in the process. Two years later, he was elected to the Northampton city council, and subsequently two terms as city solicitor (city attorney).