American Presidents: Life Portraits

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American Presidents: Life Portraits
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes41
Executive producerMark Farkas
ProducersPaul Brown, Maura Pierce
Original release
ReleaseMarch 15 (1999-03-15) –
December 20, 1999 (1999-12-20)
American Writers: A Journey Through History

American Presidents: Life Portraits is a series produced by C-SPAN in 1999. Each episode was aired live, and was a two- to three-hour look at the life and times of one particular president of the United States. Episodes were broadcast from locations of importance to the profiled president, featured interviews with historians and other experts, and incorporated calls from viewers. The series served as a commemoration of C-SPAN's 20th anniversary.

The first program aired on March 15, 1999, and profiled George Washington. Subsequent programs featured each president in succession, concluding with the then current president Bill Clinton on December 20, 1999. (Despite serving two non-consecutive terms, Grover Cleveland was only profiled on one program.)[1]

Peabody Award[edit]

American Presidents was awarded a George Foster Peabody Award in 1999.[2] Excerpts of the official rationale for that award appear below:

...From the sites, noted biographers, presidential scholars, descendants, and other guests presented revealing information and assessments of the life, times and legacies of the presidents. The tone set by chairman and CEO (and reluctant air personality) Brian P. Lamb remains on point: good television often takes time, requires few special effects and demands (and rewards) good listening. While, like Mr. Lamb, they rarely seek the spotlight, especially deserving of mention are executive producer Mark Farkas, producers Maura Pierce, Paul Brown, Peter Slen and the more than 200 other unseen individuals who make the C-SPAN service increasingly indispensable...

...For creating a series that perfectly embodies the essence of public service in electronic communications, a Peabody Award is presented to C-SPAN for "American Presidents: Life Portraits."

Presidential portraits[edit]

Artist Chas Fagan was commissioned by C-SPAN to paint portraits of each of the 41 men who had held the office of U.S. president through 1999. He was given a 90-day window from the time he agreed to the assignment until the time that the project needed to be complete. In September 1999, Union Station in Washington, D.C., hosted a display of Fagan's presidential portraits.[3] Since then, Fagan has also painted portraits of George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, and tours with exhibits of those portraits.[4]


Note: In addition to the interviewees listed, each program featured a variety of other experts, many of whom were employed by or volunteered for the historical sites from which the programs were being broadcast.

Original air date
with link to video
President Location Featured interviewees
March 15, 1999 George Washington Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens,
Alexandria, Virginia
Richard Norton Smith
March 22, 1999 John Adams Adams National Historic Site,
Quincy, Massachusetts
David McCullough
April 2, 1999 Thomas Jefferson Monticello,
Charlottesville, Virginia
Andrew Burstein, Annette Gordon-Reed
April 9, 1999 James Madison Montpelier,
Montpelier Station, Virginia
Jack Rakove, Holly Shulman
April 12, 1999 James Monroe James Monroe Museum,
Fredericksburg, Virginia
April 18, 1999 John Quincy Adams Massachusetts Historical Society,
Boston, Massachusetts
Lynn Hudson Parsons
April 26, 1999 Andrew Jackson The Hermitage,
Hermitage, Tennessee
Robert Remini
May 3, 1999 Martin Van Buren Martin Van Buren National Historic Site,
Kinderhook, New York
May 10, 1999 William Henry Harrison Tippecanoe Battlefield,
Battle Ground, Indiana
May 17, 1999 John Tyler Sherwood Forest Plantation,
Charles City, Virginia
Edward Crapol, Harrison Ruffin Tyler
May 28, 1999 James K. Polk President James K. Polk Home & Museum,
Columbia, Tennessee
May 31, 1999 Zachary Taylor Zachary Taylor National Cemetery,
Louisville, Kentucky
June 11, 1999 Millard Fillmore Fillmore House Museum,
East Aurora, New York
June 14, 1999 Franklin Pierce The Pierce Manse,
Concord, New Hampshire
Barry Paris
June 21, 1999 James Buchanan Wheatland,
Lancaster, Pennsylvania
June 28, 1999 Abraham Lincoln Lincoln Home National Historic Site,
Springfield, Illinois
July 9, 1999 Andrew Johnson Andrew Johnson National Historic Site,
Greeneville, Tennessee
July 12, 1999 Ulysses S. Grant General Grant National Memorial,
New York City, New York
John Y. Simon, Allan Ballard, Ulysses Grant Dietz
July 19, 1999 Rutherford B. Hayes Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center,
Spiegel Grove, Fremont, Ohio
Ari Hoogenboom
July 26, 1999 James A. Garfield James A. Garfield National Historic Site,
Mentor, Ohio
August 6, 1999 Chester A. Arthur Union College,
Schenectady, New York
Thomas C. Reeves
August 13, 1999 Grover Cleveland Grover Cleveland Birthplace,
Caldwell, New Jersey
August 20, 1999 Benjamin Harrison President Benjamin Harrison Home,
Indianapolis, Indiana
August 23, 1999 William McKinley McKinley National Memorial and Museum,
Canton, Ohio
September 3, 1999 Theodore Roosevelt Sagamore Hill National Historic Site,
Oyster Bay, New York
Edmund Morris, Sylvia Jukes Morris
September 6, 1999 William Howard Taft William Howard Taft National Historic Site,
Cincinnati, Ohio
David H. Burton
September 13, 1999 Woodrow Wilson Woodrow Wilson Birthplace and Museum,
Staunton, Virginia
John Milton Cooper, Jr., Nell Irvin Painter
September 20, 1999 Warren G. Harding President Harding's Home,
Marion, Ohio
Robert Ferrell, Eugene Trani
September 27, 1999 Calvin Coolidge President Calvin Coolidge State Historic Site,
Plymouth, Vermont
October 4, 1999 Herbert Hoover Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum and
Herbert Hoover National Historic Site,
West Branch, Iowa
Richard Norton Smith
October 11, 1999 Franklin D. Roosevelt Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site and
Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum,
Hyde Park, New York
David Kennedy, Hugh Gregory Gallagher, Allida Black
October 18, 1999 Harry S. Truman Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum,
Independence, Missouri
Alonzo Hamby, Margaret Truman Daniel
October 25, 1999 Dwight D. Eisenhower Dwight D. Eisenhower Center,
Abilene, Kansas
Geoffrey Perret
November 5, 1999 John F. Kennedy John F. Kennedy National Historic Site,
Brookline, Massachusetts
Robert Dallek, Thomas C. Reeves
November 12, 1999 Lyndon B. Johnson LBJ Ranch,
Stonewall, Texas
Joseph Califano, Robert Caro
November 19, 1999 Richard Nixon Richard M. Nixon Library and birthplace,
Yorba Linda, California
Melvin Small, Joan Hoff
November 22, 1999 Gerald Ford Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum,
Grand Rapids, Michigan
James M. Cannon, Richard Norton Smith
December 3, 1999 Jimmy Carter Jimmy Carter National Historic Site,
Plains, Georgia
Douglas Brinkley, Leo Ribuffo
December 6, 1999 Ronald Reagan Ronald Reagan ranch,
Santa Barbara, California
Lou Cannon
December 13, 1999 George H. W. Bush George Bush Presidential Library,
College Station, Texas
John Robert Greene
December 20, 1999 Bill Clinton Clinton Center and Birthplace,
Hope, Arkansas
David Maraniss


  1. ^ "American Presidents: Life Portraits". C-SPAN. Archived from the original on December 6, 2020. Retrieved February 13, 2016.
  2. ^ "American Presidents: Life Portraits (C-Span)". Peabody Awards. Archived from the original on July 29, 2020. Retrieved February 13, 2016.
  3. ^ "American Presidents Life Portrait Exhibit". C-SPAN. September 27, 1999. Archived from the original on March 24, 2016. Retrieved February 13, 2016.
  4. ^ "Trump has his first presidential portrait". USA Today. December 29, 2016. Archived from the original on March 12, 2018. Retrieved October 11, 2018.

External links[edit]