Carl Abrams BJU

Dr. Carl Abrams, 1972 Bob Jones University graduate and former history faculty member, was one of 142 historians and professional observers of the presidency surveyed by C-SPAN for the fourth annual Historians Survey of Presidential Leadership.

Abrams taught at BJU from 1974-2020. He is the author of three books: Conservative Constraints: North Carolina and the New DealOld-Time Religion Embracing Modernist Culture; and Selling the Old-Time Religion: American Fundamentalists and Mass Culture 1920–1940, for which he was nominated for the best book on Southern history. He has also contributed to numerous publications and historical journals.

The highly anticipated survey ranks all former American presidents on 10 characteristics of leadership ranging from their skills of public persuasion to their moral authority and administrative skills. This iteration marked the first time former President Donald Trump was included in the rankings.

Since 2000, C-SPAN has conducted a historians survey each time there has been a change in administrations. In this year’s survey, 142 historians and professional observers of the presidency participated — a 50 percent increase since 2017, and one reflecting new diversity in race, gender, age and philosophy.

"C-SPAN's success in assembling a truly diverse group of historians and professional observers of the presidency only strengthens an already strong poll," said Amity Shlaes, chairman of the Calvin Coolidge Foundation.

As in each of C-SPAN's first three surveys, released in 2000, 2009 and 2017, Abraham Lincoln received top billing. George Washington, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Theodore Roosevelt also retained their top five status. Dwight Eisenhower, who entered the top five in 2017, remains in fifth place in the 2021 survey. Ulysses S. Grant has the survey’s largest overall gain, jumping 13 spots from #33 in 2000 to #20 in 2021.

"What stands out to me here is the stability,” said presidential historian Richard Norton Smith. “It's interesting, particularly at the top and bottom of the list, how little significant movement there has been. By contrast, the living presidents seem much more likely to fluctuate. It's almost as if there was a boomerang effect where historians go overboard a bit when presidents leave office and they are at the nadir of their partisan reputation, and then they graduate to a less political status."

On Sunday, July 4, survey advisers — Douglas Brinkley, Edna Greene Medford, Richard Norton Smith and Amity Shlaes — will be guests on C-SPAN's Washington Journal from 8 – 10 a.m. EST to discuss the survey results. Brinkley, Medford and Smith have advised since the survey’s inception in 2000.

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