Born on March 18, 1837, in Caldwell, New Jersey, Stephen Grover Cleveland was the fifth of the nine children to a bookseller’s daughter, Ann Neal, and a Presbyterian priest, Richard Falley Cleveland. He was named Stephen Grover in honor of the first pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Caldwell, eventually, he refused to use Stephen and sticked with Grover as an adult.
The income of Grover Cleveland’s father as a pastor was quite inadequate to support the large family of nine children; that is why he grew up in poverty and has to work in a mercantile for two years in Fayetteville. After he completed his contract, he returned to school at Clinton. He received his primary education in Fayetteville Academy and Clinton Liberal Academy; however, in 1853, he was forced to leave school because of the sudden demise of his father.
Grover Cleveland was fondly called ‘Big Steve’ by his friends after the death of his father. He was able to secure the job of assistant teacher at the New York Institute for the Blind in New York City. Soon, he quit his work and circumstances forced him to move to Buffalo, New York. After moving, Cleveland started looking for a job to help support his family and, with the help of his uncle, Lewis F. Allen, who was quite an influential person there, finally found a clerical job.
Grover Cleveland, with the aid of his powerful uncle, managed to study law after obtaining a clerkship in Buffalo’s famous law firm – Rogers, Bowen, and Rogers and was eventually admitted to the Bar in 1859. After ending his three-year long association with ‘Rogers, Bowen and Rogers’ in 1862, he began his practice in January 1863. He gained an exceptional reputation as a lawyer for his ability to focus hard and his excellent show of single-minded commitment and loyalty to his clients’ cause. He soon entered into politics as a Democratic Party member.
With the support of his friend Oscar Folsom, Grover Cleveland secured the nomination for Sheriff of Erie County, New York and won by a handsome margin. He compensated handsomely during his first political term as a sheriff, although he had to leave his law practice for a while, as the fees for the sheriff’s job were very good at that time.
The political career of Grover Cleveland actually started after being elected to the post of Mayor of Buffalo, New York, beating Milton C. Beebe, his Republican opponent. He took office on January 2, 1882, and began to act as Buffalo’s Mayor. He battled corruption in the government during his tenure as the Mayor of Buffalo. Positions to preserve public money and also were successful in this search.
His success as Mayor inspired the officials of the New York Democratic Party to give him the nomination for the position of Governor of the State of New York. Cleveland easily won and his top-level administrative sojourn began successfully. Grover Cleveland was nicknamed ‘Uncle Jumbo’ during this time.
Democrats were looking for a Presidential Candidate, who had the potential to take the Republican rival head-on in the 1884 Presidential Election. In American political history, this period, from 1861-1933, is referred to as the Era of Republican Political Domination. The Republican nominee James G. Blaine, was known to be dishonest and unprincipled reputation.
On the other hand, Grover Cleveland’s truthful and principled character was in direct contrast to the Republican candidate. Therefore, the Democrats handed him the nomination for the presidency after much deliberation. He won by slim margin, thanks to the help of a dissatisfied, reform-minded group of the Republicans, traditionally known as “Mugwumps,” and with his now famous contextual campaign slogan, “A Public Office is a Public Trust.”
Grover Cleveland ruled the nation with an iron fist during his first term as President, enacting reform policies and curbing corruption. When he first joined the White House, Stephen Cleveland was a bachelor. But he soon married Frances Folsom, the daughter of his deceased friend, Oscar Folsom, in the White House Blue Room on June 2, 1886. In the White House itself, he became only the second president to be married while in office and the sole president to take nuptial vows. He was again elected for a second term after the expiration of the mandate. But this time he was easily defeated by Republican Presidential nominee Benjamin Harrison, with resurgent Republicans and due to some unimaginative and badly run election campaign. So, he became a private citizen again in the year 1888 and began his career with the law firm of Bangs, Stetson, Tracy, and MacVeigh.
As the republican government of Harrison became increasingly unpopular as early as 1890, Cleveland agreed to contest the next presidential election in 1892. In three consecutive presidential elections, in 1884, 1888 and 1892, Stephen Grover Cleveland became the only and first Democratic president to win “popular vote.” With a thumping margin this time, Cleveland won comfortably. He is the only US President to have completed two non-consecutive terms to date. He resigned as President on March 4, 1897.
On June 24, 1908, at the ripe age of 71, the ‘Guardian President’ Grover Cleveland died from a heart attack.