• Andrew Johnson with Sioux delegation at White House

    Andrew Johnson

    National Historic Site Tennessee

Overview of Andrew Johnson's life

Andrew Johnson was born in Raleigh, North Carolina on December 29, 1808 to Jacob and Mary ("Polly") Johnson. In 1811 his father saved some acquaintances from drowning, but the effort weakened him irrevocably. He died in January 1812. Andrew was three years old.

Jacob Johnson had been a respected man, but one of meager means. With his death, his wife and two sons were left destitute. Polly Johnson apprenticed her sons, William and Andrew, to a local tailor. They ran away in 1824.

Andrew came to Greeneville in 1826 with his mother and stepfather and found an opportunity to begin his own tailoring business. In 1827 he married Eliza McCardle. At that time he had only a scant education, but he studied diligently under his wife's tutelage, and he paid people to read to him while he worked. He was soon proven to be a capable tailor, and his flourishing shop became a gathering place for political discussion and debate. By 1829 Johnson was elected alderman of the town of Greeneville. He had embarked on his political career and would hold nearly every elective office between alderman and president, including Military Governor of the state of Tennessee during the Civil War.

On April 15, 1865, at the death of Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson became the 17th President of the United States. One of the primary elements of Johnson's presidency dealt with the reconstruction of the nation following the Civil War. After many policy disagreements between Johnson and Congress regarding reconstruction, and his subsequent violation of the Tenure of Office Act, Andrew Johnson became the first president to be impeached. He was acquitted of the charges by one vote necessary for the 2/3 majority in the Senate, and he completed the remainder of his term.

Andrew Johnson died in 1875 after becoming the only president to return to the Senate. He was buried in Greeneville, TN with his copy of the Constitution and with his body wrapped in the American flag.

Did You Know?

Shaver Portrait

Samuel Shaver, a renowned Tennessee artist, taught at the Oddfellows Female Institute in Rogersville, TN where Johnson's daughter Mary was a student. A Shaver portrait of Johnson was saved during the Civil War by a Greeneville lady who wrapped it in newspaper and hid it in front of her fireplace.