Published Date: 07/21/2014
By Reneé Watkins
With all of the discussion these days around increasing the minimum wage, we thought it might be interesting to take a look at the humble beginnings of several of our US Presidents, and the various early jobs they held earning minimum wage.
Barack Obama – Serving Up Ice Cream
President Obama earned minimum wage in his first four jobs. In addition to working as a painter, waiting tables and clearing construction sites, he also scooped ice cream at a Baskin-Robbins.
Ronald Reagan – Saving Lives and Washing Dishes
Former President Reagan went to college on a partial football scholarship and covered the balance of his education costs by washing dishes. After graduation, he worked as a sportscaster where he was paid $10 for every game he covered.
During high school, he worked as a lifeguard at a popular river swimming area where he was credited for saving 77 lives over four summers.
Gerald Ford – Grilling Burgers
Former President Ford worked at a paint store and grilled hamburgers at a local restaurant in high school.
He also played football in high school and went on to play for the University of Michigan. In fact, he was good enough to be offered positions on both the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions.
Ford turned down both organizations because he wanted to attend law school.
Herbert Hoover – Working in a Mine
Former President Herbert Hoover started his own company as a teenager, repairing sewing machines. While in college, he ran a laundry service and had a paper route to pay for his education.
After graduation from college, he took a job pushing carts in an underground mine, earning $2 per day and working 70 hours a week.
Richard Nixon – Grocery Store Produce
Former President Richard Nixon came from absolutely nothing. His father opened a combination grocery store and gas station where the whole family worked.
Every morning before school, Nixon would go into Los Angeles and purchase produce for his father’s grocery. Nixon eventually won a scholarship to Duke University Law School.
Lyndon Johnson – Traveling Man
After high school, former President Lyndon Johnson and five friends purchased a car together and drove from Texas to California. He worked a number of odd jobs for about a year, and then hitchhiked back to Texas, where he worked on a road crew to earn money.
Johnson eventually enrolled in Southwest Texas State Teachers College and taught school for a short period before becoming a Congressional aide.
Jimmy Carter – Working for Peanuts
Former President Jimmy Carter worked on his father’s peanut farm growing up. At 10 years old, he was hauling peanuts into town to sell.
After attending the US Naval Academy, he returned to the farm when his father died. A drought devastated the farm in 1954 and left him with a profit of only $187 that year.
President Carter turned the farm around to a profitable status before entering politics.
Bill Clinton – Politics From the Start
Former President Bill Clinton attended Georgetown University, but was concerned about paying for his education. Despite some help from his parents and some partial scholarships, he was still in need of additional funds to cover the cost of his education.
Clinton was offered a part-time job clerking for the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which made up the difference and allowed him to stay in school. From then on, he was hooked on politics.
George H.W. Bush – Company Clerk
George Herbert Walker Bush came from a wealthy lineage in New England and never had to worry about money. However, he was driven to make it on his own and moved his family to Texas with the hopes of making his fortune in the oil business.
His first job out of college was as a clerk for an oil-drilling company earning $375 a month.
He and a friend eventually started their own oil company, which was eventually merged with Zapata Petroleum. Bush became a president of one of their subsidiaries.