From my column in Taki’s Magazine: “Short-Shaming:”
Five Presidents at the dedication of the lovely Ronald Reagan library in the early 1990s. Jimmy Carter is listed at 5’9.5″. Nixon was taller than I would have guessed, especially because pre-Baby Boomers were considerably shorter on average than my generation.
For example, the last twenty U.S. presidents, going back to Teddy Roosevelt, have averaged six feet tall (according to Wikipedia’s listing), or 183 cm. This would likely put the average president around the 90th percentile compared with the average American man of his time, even though, until recently, Americans tended to be among the healthiest, best nourished, and tallest people in the world.
The most famous presidents have been particularly tall. The four on Mount Rushmore (Lincoln 6’4″, Jefferson 6’2.5″, Washington 6’2″, and Teddy Roosevelt 5’10”) average somewhat under 6’2″.
Few presidents have been shorter than average. William McKinley was 5’7″ and Benjamin Harrison was 5’6″, but every other president after Martin Van Buren (5’6″) was at least 5’8″, which was the typical height of a Union soldier in the Civil War.
So it’s less that the tallest man wins (e.g., in 2004 GWB was considerably shorter than John Kerry, although still above average), but that men below about the 30th percentile don’t stand much of a chance.