From FDR To KBJ: An Abbreviated History Of Political Initials

list of initials of US political figures on green background:" RFK, LBJ, MLK, RBG, AOC"

In politics, having a catchy nickname will go a long way to help you stand out from the crowd and be remembered throughout history. After all, we still recall how much people liked Ike and how they loved listening to the Great Communicator. But a nickname doesn’t have to be that fancy to stick in people’s minds. Sometimes, all you need are a couple of letters. To demonstrate, let’s take a quick look at some of the most memorable initials that people have used to refer to major political figures throughout American history.


Full Name: Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, commonly known as FDR, was the 32nd president of the United States and served an unprecedented four terms from 1933 until his death in 1945. While Roosevelt’s cousin Teddy was known sometimes as T.R., FDR was certainly the trendsetter when it came to political initialisms.

During his presidency, newspapers and magazines would refer to President Roosevelt as FDR or F.D.R. However, the president was known by his initials from literally the very beginning of his life. At the time of his birth, Roosevelt’s parents celebrated their son’s birth in 1882 with an announcement that referred to the baby Roosevelt as F.D.R.


Full Name: John Fitzgerald Kennedy

John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, is commonly known today as JFK. Since at least the start of his presidency in 1961, newspapers and magazines often used the initials JFK to refer to the president. When asked what he personally preferred to be called in newspapers, the president answered “Kennedy” but said that JFK was fine too.

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Full Name: Robert “Bobby” Francis Kennedy

JFK’s younger brother Robert Kennedy is also commonly known by his initials, RFK. Robert Kennedy served as US attorney general from 1961 until 1964 and then served as US senator from 1965 until his assassination in 1968.

The younger Kennedy’s nickname seems to have emerged after the popularization of that of his older brother. Robert Kennedy was referred to by RFK as early as 1961 in a LIFE magazine article. However, newspapers at the time typically referred to him by his full name until around 1962, when newspapers started to use RFK to refer to the attorney general.


Full Name: Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr., commonly known today as MLK, was a major political figure during the 1950s and 1960s as the most prominent leader of the civil rights movement of the time. During King’s lifetime, newspapers rarely referred to him as MLK and instead typically used his full name. However, African American magazines often did use the initials MLK to refer to King starting in the early 1960s.


Full Name: Lyndon Baines Johnson

Lyndon Baines Johnson, commonly known as LBJ, was the 36th US president, serving from 1963 until 1969. Johnson’s nickname has an interesting history. Before they were used to refer to him, the initials LBJ were commonly used to refer to his home in Texas, the LBJ Ranch, during his time in the Senate in the 1950s. Newspapers and magazines began to transfer the initials from Johnson’s home to the man himself once he became president following President Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.


Full Name: George Walker Bush

George Walker Bush, commonly known as George W. Bush, was the 43rd president of the United States, serving from 2001 until 2009. Once George Walker Bush became a serious candidate for the presidency, the letter W was commonly used by the media and pollsters to distinguish him from his father, George Herbert Walker Bush, who was the 41st president. As a result, the senior Bush was often referred to as H.W. during and after his son’s tenure as president.

George W. Bush was often comically portrayed in popular culture by numerous impressionists. When satirizing Bush, comedians would often refer to him as W, which was pronounced “Dubya” in reference to the way he himself pronounced the letter in his distinct Texan accent.

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Full Name: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

AOC are the initials of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who was elected to the House of Representatives from New York’s 14th District in 2018. Ocasio-Cortez has also used the initials to refer to herself, such as in her Twitter usernames @AOC and @RepAOC. While Ocasio-Cortez was sometimes referred to as AOC by the media during her congressional campaign, the nickname became more widely used after she became a major figure in politics following her successful campaign.


Full Name: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

RBG are the initials of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who served as a Supreme Court justice from 1993 until her death in 2020. The popular usage of RBG by the media to refer to Ginsburg seems to have begun around 1995, not too long after her 1993 confirmation.

Later in her life, Ginsburg was also referred to as the Notorious RBG, a reference to rapper the Notorious B.I.G. (aka Biggie Smalls—real name Christoper Wallace). The first recorded use of this nickname comes from 2013 by law student Shana Knizhnik, who is said to have been inspired by Ginsburg’s strong personality.

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Full Name: Amy Coney Barrett

ACB are the initials of Amy Coney Barrett, a Supreme Court justice who replaced Ruth Bader Ginsburg following Ginsburg’s death in 2020. Barrett was often referred to as ACB soon after becoming a major public figure once she was officially nominated by President Donald Trump.


Full Name: Marjorie Taylor Greene

MTG are the initials of Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was elected to the House of Representatives from Georgia’s 14th District in 2020. The initials of MTG became a common shorthand for Greene’s name (she also used them on social media), but didn’t become popular in the media until she became an increasingly controversial political figure after her successful campaign.


Full Name: Kentanji Brown Jackson

KBJ are the initials of Kentanji Brown Jackson, a Supreme Court justice confirmed by the Senate in April 2022 to replace the retiring Stephen Breyer. Like in the case of Amy Coney Barrett, the initials KBJ were commonly used to refer to Jackson as soon as she was nominated by President Joe Biden in February 2022.

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