No President rose from abject, desperate and humble beginnings as the 17th President of the United States, Andrew Johnson (December 29, 1808 – July 31, 1875) who served as Commander-in-Chief from April 15, 1865 to March 4, 1869. Johnson succeeded to the presidency after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.
Johnson was born on December 29, 1808 in a log cabin in Raleigh, North Carolina; his parents were illiterate tavern servants; and he never attended school.
When Andrew Johnson was only three, his father died. His mother, remarried and later sent him and his brother out as apprentices to a tailor. However, the brothers ran away from their bond after two years. Their master advertised in a newspaper a reward of $10 for anyone who would return the brothers to him. However, they were never captured.
Johnson opened his tailor shop when he was just 19 and by the age of 22, he was elected the mayor of Greeneville, Tennessee. He served as mayor for four years. He was then elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1835. He later became a Tennessee State Senator before being elected to the congress in 1843.
Johnson married his wife, Eliza, when he was 18 (the youngest President to marry) and she, 16 (no First Lady got married at a younger age). They were married by Justice of the Peace Mordecai Lincoln, first cousin of Thomas Lincoln, President Abraham Lincoln’s father. They had two daughters and three sons.
Johnson apprenticed as a tailor and made his own clothes much of his life. In fact, as President, he sewed his own clothes himself. His tailor shop, in Tennessee, still stands till today, along with a sign over the door that reads: ‘A. Johnson Tailor‘.
When the Southern slave states, seceded to form the Confederate States of America, Johnson remained firmly with the Union. He was the only sitting senator from a Confederate state (Tennessee) who did not resign his seat upon learning of his state’s secession.
“The goal to strive for is a poor government but a rich people.” – Andrew Johnson (1808–1875), 17th President of the United States (April 15, 1865–March 4, 1869).
As president, Johnson saw to the purchase of Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million.
Johnson was the first president whose veto was overridden by Congress.
Johnson was the first President to be impeached. Only one vote saved him from being removed from office.
President Johnson was the only American President who did not have any formal education at all. His wife taught him how to read and write.
Despite his lack of education, Johnson was a voracious reader. He had much of the US Constitution memorised.
Johnson did not run for reelection in 1868. He had hoped the Democrats would choose him as their presidential nominee, but they opted instead for Horatio Seymour (1810-1886), a former governor of New York. Civil War hero Ulysses Grant, the Republican candidate, won the election and became the 18th U.S. president. However, Johnson did not attend his successor’s inauguration on March 4, 1869.
After his presidency, Johnson was elected to the Senate. The only President in history to achieve that feat.
During his political career he served as U.S. Congressman, Governor (Tennessee), U.S. Senator, Vice President, President and Senator again.
When Johnson died of a stroke on July 31, 1875, at the age of 66, he requested to be buried with his body wrapped with the American flag and a copy of the United States Constitution propped under his head as a pillow.
Ayomide Akinbode holds a degree in Chemistry but has a passion for History and Classics. When he is not writing, he’s either sleeping or playing Scrabble.