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Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson (December 29, 1808 – July 31, 1875) was the 17th President of the United States (1865–1869). As Vice President of the United States in 1865, he succeeded Abraham Lincoln following the latter's assassination. Johnson then presided over the initial and contentious Reconstruction era of the United States following the American Civil War. Johnson's reconstruction policies failed to promote the rights of the Freedmen, and he came under vigorous political attack from Republicans, ending in his impeachment by the U.S. House of Representatives; he was acquitted by the U.S. Senate.

Johnson, born in poverty and of Scots-Irish descent, became a master tailor and was self-educated, married and had five children. He served as an alderman and as Mayor of Greeneville, Tennessee and then sat in both houses of the Tennessee legislature. He went on to spend five consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and two terms as Governor of Tennessee, all as a Democrat. His signature legislative endeavour in the state and federal arenas was passage of the Homestead Act.

Andrew Johnson was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, to Jacob Johnson (1778–1812) and Mary ("Polly") McDonough (1783–1856), a seamstress and the daughter of Andrew McDonough. He had a brother William four years his elder and an older sister Elizabeth who died in childhood. Johnson's grandfather William was poverty stricken, and left his son Jacob landless and illiterate. In Raleigh, Jacob became town constable and suddenly died shortly after rescuing three drowning men, leaving his family in poverty when Andrew was three. Johnson's mother then took in work spinning and weaving to support her family, and she later was remarried to Turner Doughtry. She bound Andrew as an apprentice tailor; Johnson had no formal education but taught himself how to read and write, with some help from his masters, as was their obligation under his apprenticeship.

As a youngster living in poverty, along with his childhood friends, Johnson was an object of ridicule from members of higher social circles; as such, he was commonly referred to as "poor white trash" by the elite in Raleigh. Nevertheless, he and his peers were acutely aware that they were one step above the lowest on the socio-economic ladder, i.e. the black community. As a consequence, Johnson assumed an attitude of white supremacy typical of one in his position in his town, and he was unable to ever shed this perspective during his life.

Johnson returned to Raleigh and from there travelled with his mother, stepfather and brother to Greeneville, Tennessee and established a very successful tailoring business in the front of his home; he was joined by a partner, Hentle W. Adkinson. At the age of 18, Johnson married 16 year-old Eliza McCardle in 1827; she was the daughter of a local shoemaker. The couple were married for 50 years and had five children: Martha (1828), Charles (1830), Mary (1832), Robert (1834), and Andrew Jr. (1852). Though she suffered from consumption, Eliza was consistently supportive of Johnson's endeavours; she taught Johnson arithmetic up to basic algebra and tutored him to improve his literacy, reading, and writing skills.


Took office the date of Abraham Lincoln's death on April 15, 1865