WHAT should be your son's first name, if the destination...


January 19, 1993

WHAT should be your son's first name, if the destination yo have in mind for him is the White House and if you think precedent can help the would-be president?

The logical answer is James. So far, half a dozen Jameses have made it to the presidency. (One restyled himself Jimmy, but he started out a James. We are counting Bill here as a William.) The six Jameses are tops, followed by five Johns and now four Williams.

But a closer look at the nation's 41 presidents (counting Stephen Grover Cleveland only once) brings out something quite different. Forget James. For the odds to reach their optimum, your son should be named . . . junior.

George Washington's father's name was Augustine but John Adams' father's name was John. James Madison's father was James.

Repetition prevailed also at the christening of Andrew Jackson, John Tyler, James Buchanan, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, John Calvin Coolidge, Gerald R. Ford, James Earl Carter and Bill Clinton.

Ford is a special case. He's a junior twice. He changed his original name, Leslie King Jr., after his mother's remarriage to Gerald Rudolph Ford Sr.

And William Jefferson Clinton is another special case. His name, before his mother remarried, was W. J. Blythe IV. As the nation ages, continuity lengthens.

Through today, people bearing 23 different first names have been sworn in or affirmed in. Over against the two Andrews, Franklins, Georges and Thomases, there have been such oddities as Chester, Hiram (Ulysses) and Rutherford.

No Mike has ever succeeded in selling himself to the electorate; no Joe, Bob, Pete, Charlie or Howie, no Ed or Fred, no Hank or Frank, no Larry, Paul or Walter.

For the boy born tomorrow, to a father who is anything from Adam to Zachary, it will be understandable if the name entered on the certificate is not junior but William (Bill).

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