President Grover Cleveland, the only U.S. president to have served in two non-consecutive terms, was one of two Democrats (the other being Woodrow Wilson) to have served as president during a period of Republican domination of the White House.

Stephen Grover Cleveland was born on March 18, 1837 and received an elementary school education, but left high school to support his family when his father died. Although he never completed his formal education, he was admitted to the New York State bar in 1859. Grover’s uncle helped him obtain a clerical job at a Buffalo, NY law firm where he eventually worked as a lawyer. Three years later, Cleveland started his own law firm, and a year after that, he was appointed Assistant District Attorney of Erie County. In 1865, he ran unsuccessfully for Erie County District Attorney, losing to his Republican roommate, Lyman K. Bass. In 1871, he was elected Sheriff of Erie County and over a decade later, in 1882, Cleveland was elected mayor of Buffalo. Months later, the convention nominating the Democratic candidate for Governor of New York became deadlocked, and Cleveland, who was third on the slate, became the compromise candidate. He beat Republican, Charles J. Folger by the largest margin of victory in New York gubernatorial election history.

In 1884, Cleveland emerged among many Democratic candidates as the party’s favorite for the presidency. He won the Democratic nomination on the convention’s second ballot, and beat Republican Speaker of the House James Blaine of Maine in the general election. Cleveland was 47 when he became President. A bachelor, his sister, Rose Cleveland, served as hostess for the first two years of his first term. On June 2, 1886, 49-year old Cleveland married 21-year old Frances Folsom in the Blue Room of the White House. She was the daughter of an old friend, and Cleveland had supervised Frances’ upbringing after her father passed away. They eventually had five children. 

Cleveland was defeated in the 1888 election by Republican Benjamin Harrison of Indiana. However, in 1892, Cleveland was re-nominated as the Democratic nominee for president, and decisively beat the incumbent Harrison.

Throughout his career, Grover Cleveland was known for his high level of integrity. During Cleveland’s first term, he denounced the refusal by the Hapsburg Austrian government to accept the credentials of John Kieley as minister-designate, because Kieley’s wife was Jewish. In his 1895 State of the Union Address, President Cleveland addressed antisemitism, and decried “… the practice of Russian consuls … to interrogate citizens as to their race and religious faith, and upon ascertainment thereof to deny to Jews authentication of passports or legal documents for use in Russia.”

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