Bill Leslie's Carolina Conversations

Raleigh's Rascal President

Posted February 7, 2006

Folks in Raleigh ran him out of town as a teenager for throwing rocks at a neighbor. The boy's name: Andrew Johnson. He would grow up to become President of the United States. Johnson was born in Raleigh in 1808 in a small wooden house. You can see his birthplace today by visiting Mordecai Historic Park in Raleigh.
When Andrew was only four years old his father suffered serious health problems after saving two or three people from drowning. Jacob Johnson died within a year of the incident leaving wife Mary to raise Andrew and his older brother. When Andrew was 14 his mother apprenticed her sons to a tailor in Raleigh Andrew's informal education began while while serving as an apprentice. He never went to school but taught himself to read.
A mischievous moment occurred when Andrew was 16. He and his friends threw rocks at a tradesman's house. The neighbor threatened to call police. Andrew fled to Carthage in Moore County for fear of prosecution.
After working as a tailor in Carthage and Laurens, SC Johnson returned to Raleigh but could not find employment. At this point his family left for Tennessee where his political career would flourish as an adult. Johnson became a US Senator and eventually Vice President. He took over the White House after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865. Political turmoil almost suffocated Johnson. Congress voted to impeach him on 11 charges of violating the Tenure of Office Act. He was acquitted. Johnson can be credited with starting the process of reunifying the country after four years of civil war. Johnson finished Lincoln's term of office but failed to receive his party's nomination in 1869. It was quite a ride - from rock throwing prankster to President. And it all started in Raleigh.

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