Andrew Johnson was born December 29, 1808, in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Johnson grew up in poverty. He was apprenticed to a tailor as a boy, but ran away. He opened a tailor shop in Greeneville, Tennessee, and married Eliza McCardle on May 17, 1827, and had five children.
Johnson never had a single day of formal schooling, but his wife taught him to read and write. Like Millard Fillmore, once Johnson learned to read, he studied and became a lawyer. Moving to Tennessee, he pursued politics and was elected to Congress and then the Senate. Alone among all Southern Senators, he remained in the Senate when his state seceded.
Although Johnson was from the Democratic Party, in 1864, Lincoln chose Johnson as his running mate under the National Union Party banner. When Lincoln died April 15, 1865, Johnson became president. He did not have a Vice President.
Johnson had the job of trying to heal the country after the Civil War left the country in ruins. As a Southerner who sided with the North, he had many political enemies both outside and within his own government. He was a great speaker, but many of his opponents worked against him during those turbulent times. Johnson did not want retribution against the South, but many in his government wanted to punish the South for secession and the war.
Johnson was also unpopular for his purchase of Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million dollars, negotiated by Secretary of State William Seward. People called the Alaska Purchase “Seward’s Folly.”
In 1867, Congress passed an act prohibiting the President from dismissing a cabinet member without the consent of Congress. Despite this act of Congress, Johnson dismissed Secretary of War Edwin H. Stanton for his unwavering demands for retribution. In 1868, Congress voted to impeach Johnson, to hold a trial to remove him from office under the Constitutional provision again “high crimes and misdemeanors.” Johnson was acquitted by by only one vote.
Nebraska became the 37th state admitted to the Union during his tenure.
After his turbulent term of office ended in 1869, Johnson returned to Tennessee and ran for the U.S. Senate. He was elected and served his last years as the only President ever to serve in the Senate after his Presidency. Johnson died on July 31, 1875. His love of freedom was so great that a copy of the Constitution as a pillow for his head is buried with him.