Andrew Johnson, Seventeenth President (1865-1869)
Andrew Johnson, after 1866, Oil on canvas by Washington Bogart Cooper
A onetime tailor whose wife had taught him to read, Andrew Johnson thought he had reached his political summit with his election to the Senate in 1856. But Johnson's ardent opposition to his native Tennessee's membership in the Confederacy led to his becoming Abraham Lincoln's vice president, and then successor to the presidency upon Lincoln's assassination in April 1865. Johnson shared Lincoln's determination to readmit the South to the Union with a minimum of punitive demands on the defeated region. That, however, put him at odds with a Congress out to punish the South's white leadership and ensure the rights of the region's newly freed blacks. The tactless and combative Johnson survived impeachment by one vote, but was without any real influence for the remainder of his presidency. Washington B. Cooper was a leading Tennessee portraitist, and Johnson sat for him on several occasions. Although this likeness is undated, Johnson's apparent age in the picture suggests that it was painted during his presidency.