As followers of this column know, a favorite pastime of mine is making lists. Often when trapped in a dull speaker's audience, having an insomnia hour or two at night, or while waiting for an overdue bus, mental lists can fill the void.

To date, the lists have included: the greatest Americans; the best and worst presidents; best film actors and actresses (Gregory Peck heads the men, Meryl Streep the women); heroes and heroines (Chesley Sullenberger was added recently); top heavyweight boxing champions (Joe Louis leads here); and our most intelligent presidents -- Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover are out in front on that one.

With ears that aren't working too well, more and more formal speakers seem to be mumbling these days, especially those who feel they don't really need a microphone and step away with dramatic gestures, etc. ... It's list time! The most recent two involve those presidents again.

How about this one? Presidents I would like to have as neighbors -- a nice guys list!

In order, they are Abraham Lincoln, James Monroe, U.S. Grant, Jimmy Carter, James Polk, Gerald Ford, Harry Truman and Herbert Hoover. You might note political parties have been ignored. To me they're the type you can chat with over the fence, borrow their lawn mower or share a couple of personal problems with. Sorry if your favorites didn't make the cut; and I have to admit a couple didn't exactly bless the Oval Office.


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A few months back, those who might have made good presidents had they been elected (or if they had even run) came to mind. They are Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, Barry Goldwater, Charles Dawes, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Adlai Stevenson, Tom Dewey and Colin Powell.

This doesn't necessarily mean that those who ran for president and lost would have been better than the winners; sometimes I think Dwight Eisenhower versus Stevenson marks the last really positive election we've had. Eisenhower backers tended to feel Stevenson was OK, just not as good as Ike and visa versa. From then on the I-sure-don't-want-that-guy motivation began influencing voters' choices. Unfortunately, negativism appears to dominate too many campaigns.

Oh, you've been wondering who that Dawes person was. He happened to be Calvin Coolidge's vice president; and this former history teacher feels he had far better qualifications than "Silent Cal." How so? Try these: He had been comptroller of the currency in the Treasury Department under William McKinley, a general in World War I and a lifelong friend of Gen. John J. Pershing, wrote the Dawes Act to aid Native Americans and headed the postwar Allied Reparations Commission.

As a result of his efforts on the latter one, he co-shared the Nobel Peace Prize ... some guy!

To add an intriguing side note, Dawes, as a self-taught pianist, composed a piece called "Melody in A Major," which was transformed into the popular hit song "It's All in the Game."

It's amazing what a list maker can run across.

Contact Joe King at alamedanews@bayareanewsgroup.com.