By: Jack Swift
Johnson County Historian
Sorry for the omission of last week’s column. I had cataract surgery in my left eye and was just concerned about looking at length at a computer screen. This week I thought I would take a look at another United States president: Andrew Johnson. I wrote about Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson in my column two weeks ago.
One of the most interesting U. S. presidents to me was Andrew Johnson. I suppose the main reason that I feel that way is because he had strength of character that is rare in this day and time. While he had faults, he demonstrated a willingness to be more lenient with the confederate states following the American Civil War. He to a great extent followed the direction of President Lincoln and was faulted for it. My take on Johnson following some research is that he tried to do the right thing even in the face of scathing criticism.
Another reason I like the story of Andrew Johnson’s life is that he worked as a tailor in Greeneville, Tennessee, not all that far from Mountain City before making a name for himself in politics and ultimately becoming president due to him being vice-president to Lincoln who was assassinated early in his second term. Johnson was the first American president to be impeached but he was acquitted by one vote. The impeachment occurred because he wouldn’t let congress usurp the duties of the president.
One interesting aspect of his life is that he was the only Southern senator to remain loyal to the Union during the Civil War. He championed states’ rights and the well fare of the common man. President Johnson was born December 29, 1808 in Raleigh, North Carolina. Early on he worked as a tailor’s apprentice. He was elected Alderman of Greeneville, Tennessee in 1828 and later as Mayor of that city. His move upward saw him being elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives and later to the Tennessee senate. In 1841 he was elected to the Tennessee senate. In 1843 he was elected a Representative from Tennessee.
He was Governor of Tennessee from 1853 until 1857. From 1857 until 1862 he was U. S. Senator from Tennessee. Appointed by Abraham Lincoln, He served from 1862 until 1864 as Military governor of Tennessee, a very dangerous position. At the death of Lincoln, he became the 17th president of the United States. In 1874 he was elected again to be a U. S. Senator from Tennessee. On July 31 of 1875 Andrew Johnson Died at Carter Station, Tennessee. It is indeed educational to visit Andrew Johnson’s home, tailor’s office and gravesite in Greeneville. It is not that far away.