Kamala Harris is the 49th vice president in U.S. history. Despite the fact that nearly 50 others have had the job before, she’s a groundbreaker: She’s the first woman to hold the office as well as the first African American and Asian American to serve. So it’s fitting that her Secret Service code name is “Pioneer.”
The first vice president of the United States was John Adams, who later became the second president of the United States. In the early days of the country, the presidential candidate with the second-highest number of electoral votes became the vice president, a system that only lasted until the early 1800s. Now, a president chooses his vice president and the two run together on one ticket.
Of the 14 vice presidents who later assumed the presidency, eight of them did so because of the death of a president, while one of them — Gerald Ford — took office after the resignation of a president — Richard Nixon. Joe Biden, who served under Barack Obama, is the second vice president to capture the presidency after waiting out a term. The first person to do this was Richard Nixon, who served as Dwight D. Eisenhower’s vice president from 1953-1961 but did not win the presidency until 1968.
Other than to succeed to the presidency upon the death or resignation of the president, a vice president’s only other constitutional duty is to preside over the Senate, including to break any tied votes. However, the vice presidency has generally become more powerful in modern times as presidents have given their vice presidents important projects to oversee.