“Raleigh’s Own President” - Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson Bicentennial Commemorated at State Capitol  
 
At noon on Monday, December 1, 2008, Dan Carter, emeritus professor of history at the University of South Carolina, spoke to a capacity crowd of over 150 in the House Chamber of the State Capitol on “Andrew Johnson and the Challenge of Leadership after the Civil War.” The occasion was the bicentennial of the birth of the seventeenth President. Andrew Johnson was born in a kitchen building serving Casso’s Tavern one block south of the Capitol on December 29, 1808. Professor Carter, who completed his doctorate under George Brown Tindall at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is the author of important works on the Scottsboro Boys and on George Wallace. He is also the author of When the War Was Over: The Failure of Self-Reconstruction in the South, 1865-1867 (Louisiana State University Press, 1985). Since his retirement, he and his wife Jane have relocated to a community near Brevard.

House Chamber
The Old House Chamber in the State Capitol
Carter depicted the first eighteenth months of Johnson’s term in office as a less than inspiring saga, indeed a “tragedy.” He set the context by contending that no person moving into the White House has ever faced a greater task and a more complex set of problems. Leading that list was the place of freedmen in the postwar South. In addition, Johnson, Carter noted, had no use for upper class white Southerners. He was rigid in his views and believed in white rule with no place for blacks within the political system. Unlike Lincoln, Johnson maintained racial and political attitudes which did not evolve as he matured as a politician. In the end, according to Carter, Johnson was “brought low by his own inadequacies.”

Following the lecture, Carter assisted in the ribbon-cutting to open an exhibit on the second floor of the Capitol dedicated to Johnson’s life. The event was the first of many programs planned by the Office of Archives and History to commemorate the bicentennial of the Civil War.

Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson