Andrew Johnson was born on December 29, 1808, in Raleigh, North Carolina into a poor working class family. His father died when Andrew was only three years old attempting to rescue someone from drowning. Andrew and his brother William lived with their mother Polly and worked as indentured servants to a tailor for room and board. Both Andrew and his brother ran away from Raleigh and worked in Greenville, Tennessee as tailors. It was in Tennessee that
Andrew met and married Eliza McCardle. Eliza taught Andrew to read and write.
Johnson entered politics in 1830, when at the age of twenty-two, he was elected mayor of Greenville, Tennessee. He served as mayor for three years before advancing to the Tennessee House of Representatives. In 1841, he was elected to the Tennessee State Senate, where he served until 1853. “In his message to the legislature he dwelt upon the homestead law and other measures for the benefit of the working class and earned the title of “mechanic governor”.” (Richardson) Johnson served as Governor of Tennessee from 1853-1857. Following his term as governor, he represented Tennessee in the United States Senate until 1862, when Abraham Lincoln appointed him Military Governor of Tennessee.
When Lincoln ran for reelection in 1864, he named Andrew Johnson as Vice President because he was a southerner who was also pro Union. At his swearing in for Vice President, Johnson was drunk. “The verdict was universal. Johnson’s speech, which he wanted to be the effort of his life, had been a disaster. From that day on, whenever he made a controversial statement, many assumed he had been drunk.” (Stewart) A black man was in the crowd who
heard Lincoln’s Innaugural Address and had this to say about Andrew Johnson. “There are moments in the lives of men, when doors of their souls are open, and unconsciously to themselves their true characters may be read by the observant eye.” (Douglass) “Whatever Andrew Johnson may be, he is no friend of our race.” (Douglass)
Johnson became president on April 15, 1865, when Lincoln was assasinated. “Andrew Johnson was a different speciman altogether, a near polar opposite of Lincoln in his leadership style and temperament – even though on the surface he and Lincoln had much in common.” (Gordon-Reed) “When congress met in December, 1865, it was overwhelmingly Republican and firmly determined to protect the negro against outrage and oppression.” (Chisholm) “It was an especial misfortune that he who had so wisely and safely conducted the Nation through the conflict of arms and had foreshadowed his beneficient measures of peace and the restoration of the shattered Republic, was taken away as he and the Nation stood at last at the open door of successful rehabilitation on a broader and grander basis than had ever been reached in all previous efforts of man at Nation building.” (Ross) “After the war, in Johnson’s view, the federal government had only to help Southerners form their...