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 when Andrew was only 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, though they ran away in 1824.
Andrew came to Greeneville, Tennessee 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 studied diligently under his wife's tutelage, and he paid people to read to him while he worked. He soon proved 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, embarking on a political career that would ultimately see him hold nearly every elected 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 the Radical Republicans in Congress regarding Reconstruction (including his violation of the Tenure of Office Act), Andrew Johnson became the first president to be impeached. During the subsequent trial in the Senate, he was acquitted by a single vote and completed the remainder of his term.
Johnson did not run for reelection, and was followed as president by the popular Civil War general Ulysses S. Grant. Johnson was reelected to the U.S. Senate in 1875, four months before his death, becoming the only former president to serve in the Senate. He was buried in Greeneville with a copy of the Constitution and with his body wrapped in the American flag.