Andrew Johnson

— 17th President of the United States —

View full portraits at:
National Portrait Gallery or the White House Presidential Portrait Gallery


April 15, 1865 to March 3, 1869

BORN: December 29, 1808
Raleigh, North Carolina
July 31, 1875, Carter Station, Tennessee
Buried in Greeneville, Tennessee
Tailor, public official
Eliza McCardle, 1827
Martha, Charles, Robert, Mary, Andrew, Jr.

Andrew Johnson was born into poverty. His father worked as a porter at an inn in Raleigh, North Carolina. His mother worked as a maid at the same inn. When Andrew Johnson was three, his father became a local hero. One night, two men were boating on a local pond when their craft flipped over. Jacob Johnson, with total disregard for his own safety, jumped into the icy water and saved both men. As a result, within a month he became very ill and died. His mother was solely responsible for the family, which included Andrew and his brother William.

When Andrew was 13, he became apprenticed to a tailor. Andrew worked as an apprentice tailor in exchange for food and clothing until he became an adult. While working as an apprentice, he taught himself to read and then read every book he could get his hands on. Atage 15, Andrew and his brother decided to run away. They made it as far as Carthage, a town 75 miles from Raleigh. For two years, they ran a tailor shop of their own. In the spring of 1826, out of money and out of work, Andrew returned home. When he asked his former boss for his job back, he was refused.

Andrew and his family decided to go to Tennessee. They settled in a place called Greeneville, Tennessee. In Greeneville, the local tailor hired Andrew right away. While in Greeneville, he met Eliza McCardle, the daughter of the local shoemaker. In less than a year, they were married. Eliza spent hours every night reading to Andrew until he could read and write.

As the town tailor, Johnson became well-known in Greeneville. Soon afterward, he began his life in politics. In thespring of 1828, he was urged to run for office by his friends and neighbors. He won and became the youngest alderman the town ever had. The people of Greeneville really liked him and elected him mayor in 1830. By 1835, he was elected to the state legislature. He later became a representative in Congress, a United States senator, and military governor of his state.

In 1864, Abraham Lincoln had picked him as his vice president. After Lincoln's death, Andrew Johnson became the 17th president. Johnson's biggest challenge as president was to reconcile the North and the South. Many in the North wanted to punish the South.

Johnson pardoned all who would take an oath of allegiance to the Union. The conflict that surrounded this issue escalated to the point that Congress acted to impeach him. The impeachment effort was one vote short.

In 1868, Andrew Johnson tried to run for president again, but his party rejected him. In 1874, he was elected to his old office as U.S. senator from Tennessee. He died a year later on July 31, 1875.

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