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e-mailhistory@whitehouse.gov

January 28, 2011

Like a lot of inside-the-White-House information, definitive data on which president first used e-mail is hard to come by. Working backwards, the Obama, George W. Bush, and Clinton administrations most certainly used e-mail as a daily part of their workdays. For select White House staff, e-mail, in fact, goes back as far as 1982 when National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane and his deputy, Admiral John M. Poindexter were hooked in to an early IBM office e-mail system. The rest of the Reagan White House came online in 1986.

There’s not much evidence, though, that presidents themselves used e-mail on a regular basis before President Obama, who lobbied to keep his Blackberry despite recommendations from advisors. According to a BBC report on the Obama Blackberry, “neither George W. Bush nor Bill Clinton used e-mail during their presidencies.”

According the the Clinton Presidential Library, however, Clinton was the first president to send an e-mail – two in fact. The first was a test e-mail to see if the president could work the system. He could. The second was an actual e-mail message sent to 77-year-old Senator John Glenn aboard the space shuttle Discovery during Glenn’s 1998 return to space. Glenn replied, making him the first senator to e-mail a president from space. As if being a war hero, astronaut, senator, the first man to orbit the Earth, and the oldest man in space wasn’t enough.

Posted by Sherman Dickman