The Secret Service has one primary job: to safeguard the life of the president and his family. And one of the best ways to preserve that safety is to use coded language, especially when discussing where the president is at the moment.
And when you’re speaking in coded language, you can’t exactly use the real names of the president and his family. That’s why the Secret Service has been using special code names for the individuals they protect, a practice that has been ongoing since the early 1900s.
However, there are many different ways to covertly communicate these days, which is why the use of code names is more symbolic than practical. But the practice (including president and family members getting names that start with the same letter) continues.
Here are the Secret Service code names for some of the most famous presidents and their families, and the unusual stories behind them!
John F. Kennedy: Lancer
John F. Kennedy has perhaps the most symbolic code name of them all. After all, his presidency has often been referred to as Camelot, the kingdom of King Arthur. It is only fitting that JFK was code named “Lancer” as a reference to Lancelot, a flawed-but-heroic (much like Kennedy himself) Knight of the Round Table.
Jackie Kennedy: Lace
While JFK’s code name refers more to how he saw himself, his wife’s code name refers more to how others saw her. Jackie Kennedy was always dazzling, and she didn’t hesitate to wear lace for everything from her wedding day to a visit to France. Therefore, she ended up with the code name “Lace.”
Jimmy Carter: Deacon
In his own way, Jimmy Carter is the living president who is most open about his faith. And when he left office, Carter spent plenty of time teaching Sunday School and doing the charitable works his Christian faith demands of him. Is it any wonder, then, his code name was “Deacon?”
Meanwhile, First Lady Rosalynn Carter went by the code name “Dancer.”
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In retrospect, some code names were more ironic than others. For example, Richard M. Nixon had the code name “Searchlight,” implying that he was a figure who would shine a light on dangerous secrets in the dark. In reality, the journalists and investigators who shined a light into Nixon’s shady dealings spelled out the end of his presidency.
Keeping with the “light” theme, First Lady Pat Nixon went by the code name “Starlight.”
Ronald Reagan: Rawhide
Part of what made Reagan’s election as president so notable was that he was a former actor. Known for his appearances in Westerns, as a politician he cultivated the image of himself as a kindly cowboy turned reluctant sheriff. Fittingly, he ended up with the code name “Rawhide.”
Meanwhile, First Lady Nancy Reagan had the code name “Rainbow.”
Bill Clinton: Eagle
While many presidents had code names reflecting their passions or aspirations, it’s not entirely clear how Bill Clinton got the code name “Eagle.” Since this former Boy Scout never actually achieved this rank, it seems likelier Clinton wanted a code name that just sounded nice and patriotic.
First Lady Hillary Clinton’s code name was “Evergreen.” Given the sheer length of her political career after the Clinton Administration, this code name was quite fitting. And their daughter Chelsea Clinton’s code name was “Energy.”
George W. Bush: Trailblazer
Sometimes, presidents are handed a code name they like. Other times, they can request a change. This is what happened with George W. Bush, whose original code name was “Tumbler.” At his request, the Secret Service changed his code name to “Trailblazer,” which is appropriate for someone who also called himself “The Decider” in public.
His wife Laura Bush went by “Tempo,” daughter Barbara went by “Turquoise,” and daughter Jenna went by “Twinkle.” Meanwhile, his father President George H. W. Bush went by “Timberwolf” and mother Barbara Bush was “Tranquility.”
Jeb Bush: Tripper
Dubya’s younger brother Jeb Bush was “Tripper” during their father’s presidency. However, when Jeb ran for president himself, he made a rather amusing joke about what he would choose for his presidential code name.
“Eveready — it’s very high energy, Donald,” he said at a Sept. 2015 Republican debate, taking a jab at his rival Donald Trump, who had criticized him for being “low-energy.”
Trump seemed to love the joke and even offered Jeb his hand for a low-five, which you can watch in the video above. Trump even made a joke about what his own code name would be — “Humble.”
Of course, Trump’s real code name would end up being something else entirely.
Donald Trump: Mogul
For whatever reason, Trump decided not to go by the code name “Humble” when he became president, and went with “Mogul” instead. It’s not immediately clear whether Donald Trump was simply handed the “Mogul” code name or if he requested it himself. Either way, the code name is a clear reference to Trump’s years of experience as a business mogul before he pivoted into politics.
His sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric went by “Mountaineer” and “Marksman” respectively, possibly due to their love of the outdoors and hunting. Son-in-law Jared Kushner by “Mechanic.” Meanwhile, Trump’s favorite child, Ivanka, went by “Marvel.”
Melania Trump: Muse
Melania Trump’s code name “Muse” is very evocative. Some think this is a reference to her years as a model where she was a beautiful “muse” to other people. Others think it is simply because she is the ongoing muse to her husband, Donald Trump.
Barack Obama: Renegade
“Renegade” sounds like the kind of badass code name that a president might request for himself. But Barack Obama was apparently just handed a list of code names starting with “R” and chose “Renegade” as his favorite.
Meanwhile, First Lady Michelle Obama went by the code name “Renaissance.” Eldest daughter Malia was code named “Radiance” while youngest daughter Sasha got the code name “Rosebud.”
Kamala Harris: Pioneer
Although not a president (yet — time will tell on that one), Vice President Kamala Harris’s code name is too interesting not to share!
Reportedly, she chose the code name “Pioneer” for herself, and it makes perfect sense. Harris is a true pioneer as the first woman to be vice president, as well as the first African-American and first South Asian American to hold the role.
Joe Biden: Celtic
Before you ask, Joe Biden’s code name “Celtic” is not a reference to the basketball team. Instead, it is a reference to his Irish family history. If you didn’t already know, his ancestors hail from County Mayo in Ireland and came to America back in the 1850s.
Jill Biden: Capri
Going along with Joe Biden’s code name referring to his heritage, First Lady Jill Biden’s code name “Capri” may refer to hers as well. Capri is an island in the Gulf of Naples, located along the coast of Italy, and Jill has Italian heritage on her father’s side. That seems a likelier explanation than Jill having a love of capri pants!