5 Prominent Figures In American Politics You Never Knew Were Adopted, Because It's National Adoption Awareness Month

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 18: A wax figure of former U.S. first lady Nancy Reagan with former President Ronald Reagan is unveiled for the first time at Madame Tussauds February 18, 2014 in Washington, DC. The figure of the former first lady was sculpted using hundreds of photographs and took approximately 800 hours to make, with 140 hours to complete just the the hair. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Source: Win McNamee/Getty Images News/Getty Images

November is National Adoption Awareness Month in the U.S., a period dedicated to making us all aware of the adoption system. Adoption doesn't receive a great deal of attention, even though about 135,000 children are adopted per year in the U.S. Adoption has also been a hot-button issue in the fight for gay rights; currently, there is no federal legislation dictating that gay couples are allowed to adopt, so such decisions are made at the state level. Adoption is a topic that is deeply embroiled in our politics, perhaps because it touches so many lives... including the lives of some of our political leaders. A small but prominent group of U.S. political leaders were adopted, and even more have adopted children themselves.

The list of political adoptees includes first ladies, presidents, and senators. One famous U.S. politician who is often confused as having been adopted is Bill Clinton. It's true that Clinton took his stepfather's (Roger Clinton) last name when he started high school, but he never actually adopted the former president. Here's a list of figures who were in fact adopted by at least one of their parents, and who grew up to be well-known in the world of politics.

President Gerald Ford

Gerald Ford's birth parents were divorced when he was a baby. Soon after, his mother married Gerald R. Ford, Sr., who adopted Ford. The future president was named for Ford Sr.

First Lady Nancy Reagan

Before she was first lady of the United States, Nancy Reagan was Anne Frances Robbins. Regan's birth parents were separated when she was a young child. Upon their separation, Regan's mother, Edith Luckett Robbins, pursued a career as an actress, and her father, Kenneth Robbins, was a salesman who was rarely at home. Reagan's birth parents took her to Bethesda, Maryland, where she was raised by Luckett Robbins' brother and sister-in-law. 

When Reagan's mother married Loyal Davis, a successful neurosurgeon in Chicago, in 1929, Reagan went to live with the couple, and was later adopted by Davis. She was Nancy Davis until she married Ronald Reagan in 1952.

Representative Newt Gingrich

Newt Gingrich had a difficult start in life. His father, "Big Newt," left their family when he was still a young boy. Later, his mother, Kit, said that Big Newt told her that he would allow her new husband, Bob Gingrich, to adopt young Newt if Big Newt could skip out on his next several child support payments. Gingrich did not know that he was adopted until he was 15 years old.

Senator Robert C. Byrd

Robert Byrd's mother died of the flu when he was only one year old. Before she died, his mother requested that his father give Byrd to a brother and sister-in-law, who raised him on a farm in West Virginia. Byrd went on to be the longest-serving U.S. senator (51 years in the Senate) before he died in 2010.

John Hancock

John Hancock, the man behind the most recognizable signature on the Declaration of Independence and one of the more famous founding fathers of the U.S., was adopted by his uncle. Hancock was orphaned as a child, and his uncle, who was wealthy and childless, adopted and raised him.

Even more politicians have adopted children. Ronald Reagan adopted his younger half-brother, Michael, before marrying Nancy. Numerous U.S. senators, including John McCain, have also adopted. 

Images: Wikimedia

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