Woodrow Wilson

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Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) - Born 28 Dec 1856 in Staunton, Virginia. Twenty Eighth President of the United States from 4 Mar 1913 to 4 Mar 1921. He served as Governor of New Jersey (1911-1913) and as President of Princeton University (1902-1910). He died 3 Feb 1924 in his Washington DC home and was interred in Washington National Cathedral, Washington DC.

Woodrow Wilson 1919

Early Years

Woodrow Wilson was born 28 Dec 1856 in Staunton, Virginia to Joseph R. and Jessie Janet Woodrow Wilson.

Wilson graduated from Princeton, attended the University of Virginia Law School and earned his doctorate at Johns Hopkins University. He married Ellen Louise Axson on 24 Jun 1885 and by 1889 they were the parents of three daughters.

He joined the faculty of Princeton University in 1890 and in 1902 he became president of the University. He left that position in 1910 to run for election as Governor of New Jersey. Wilson won the nomination of the Democratic Party and the 1910 election and took office in 1911. He quickly proved to be an effective and popular governor gaining a national reputation and paving the way for his nomination as the Democratic presidential candidate in 1912.

First Presidential Term (1913-1917)

Woodrow Wilson was elected as the Twenty Eighth President of the United States in 1912 after struggling to get the Democratic Party nomination. He took office on 4 March 1913. He immediately embarked on a progressive legislative agenda and was successful in getting much of it enacted with a Democratic Congress.

When Wilson assumed the presidency he found the U.S. Army in a weak position with fixed forces ensconced in coastal fortifications and mobile forces tied down fighting the Moros and occupying the Philipines. The Mexican Revolution was underway and the Mexican Border Wars were beginning to heat up as the revolutionaries split into factions and began to raid American border towns. By the beginning of 1917 Wilson would deploy some 75,000 troops to camps along the Mexican border and order a punitive expedition commanded by General John J. Pershing into Mexico to capture Pancho Villa who had raided the town of Columbus, New Mexico.

Wilson's wife Ellen fell ill, suffering from kidney failure and she died on 6 Aug 1914, sending him into a six month depression. This event coincided with the beginning of World War I in Europe. Wilson emerged from his depression in January 1915 with a firm resolve to keep America out of the war in Europe. In January 1915 Wilson met and later married Edith Bolling Galt, a widow, on 18 Dec 1915.

Major First Term Legislation
  • Federal Reserve Act (1913)
  • Underwood Tariff Act (1913)
  • Clayton Antitrust Act (1914)
  • Smith-Lever Act (1914)
  • Federal Farm Loan Act (1916)
  • Adamson Act (1916)
  • Keating-Owen Act (1916)*

Second Presidential Term (1917-1921)

Woodrow Wilson was reelected president in 1916 and began his second term on 4 Mar 1917. In the months leading up to his second term Germany had attacked several U.S. and other nations ships with the loss of U.S. citizens but Wilson was confident that he had an agreement with the German government and could keep the U.S. out of the war in Europe. In keeping with this view he and the Congress refused to build up the military and even refused to adequately fund military observers to the war in Europe. A series of events in early 1917 changed everything and a month after Wilson's second inauguration the U.S. was at war with Germany.

  • 1 Feb 1917 - Germany resumes unrestricted submarine warfare against U.S. ships.
  • 28 Feb 1917 - Wilson releases the text of the Zimmerman Telegram to the public.
  • 15 Mar 1917 - Czar Nicholas II abdicates the Russian throne.
  • 20 Mar 1917 - Wilson's cabinet votes to go to war.
  • 2 Apr 1917 - Wilson delivers his war message to Congress.
  • 4 Apr 1917 - Congress passes the Declaration of War on Germany.
  • 6 Apr 1917 - Wilson signs the Declaration of War.

It was clear at the beginning of the war that the regular army was far too small, over committed and under supplied. Wilson managed to gather regular troops from the stateside and border posts and cobbled together a single division, the 1st U.S. Infantry Division. That division deployed to Europe in May 1917 as did General John J. Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Forces, with his staff. Pershing's strategy was to assemble a U.S. army overseas and for it to fight as a unit and not to integrate with French or British units. It took almost a year for American troops to arrive in overseas in sufficient numbers to implement that strategy and in the meantime Pershing had relented and some U.S. units fought with distinction under foreign command.

The war was to be fought with three types of troops, regulars, national guard and national army (draftees). The regular army was expanded by volunteer enlistments into 8 divisions, the state national guards were federalized into 17 divisions and the national army draftees were organized into another 17 divisions. Separate massive training camps were built for each division. By the beginning of 1918 only four U.S. divisions were on French soil and had completed their overseas training. The delay was embarrassing and was directly caused by Wilson's failure to prepare for war and the failure of Congress to appropriate sufficient monies to strengthen the prewar Army and Navy. The U.S. Army officer corps numbered some 9,750 at the outbreak of the war and 180,000 were immediately required to lead what became a 1.4 million man army by 1918 and by Armistice day, a 3.67 million man army.

In the summer of 1918 the pace of American unit arrivals in France and deployments at the front reached some 10,000 men a day and the tide began to turn in favor of the allies. With the Armistice on 11 Nov 1918 and the subsequent treaty at Versailles the troops were demobilized and returned home.

Almost coincident with the end of the War was the second wave of a world wide influenza pandemic. This strain of the flu targeted young and healthy adults and was a serious issue in the huge military training camps scattered around the country. Millions died world wide in the October-December 1918 time frame. The Wilson administration tried to keep the news of the pandemic down but it was difficult when people were dying in the streets. Mortality rates reached 60 people per 1000 in some major U.S. cities.

Major Second Term Legislation
  • Espionage Act (1917)
  • Sedition Act (1918)
  • Immigration Act (1918)

On 2 Oct 1919 Woodrow Wilson suffered a stroke that left him with his left side paralyzed and impaired his vision. Wilson's physician, Dr. Grayson and Wilson's wife Edith kept the president's condition from becoming public knowledge. Edith became the gatekeeper for information to and from the president effectively running the government. The President's condition was kept from the public for some seventeen months with Edith having the only access to him besides his doctors.

Later Years

Wilson's second term ended on 4 Mar 1921 and he retired to a townhouse in Washington DC with Edith. Wilson's medical condition improved and he was able to make limited public appearances. Woodrow Wilson died at home on 3 Feb 1924 of a stroke and heart problems. He was interred in Washington National Cathedral, Washington DC on 6 Feb 1924.

Father: Joseph Ruggles Wilson (1822-1903)

Mother: Jessie Janet Woodrow (1826–1888)


  • Ellen Louise Axson (1860-1914) married 24 Jun 1885, born 15 May 1860, died 6 Aug 1914.
  • Edith Bolling Galt (1872-1961) married 18 Dec 1915, born 15 Oct 1872, died 28 Dec 1961.


  • By Ellen:
    • Margaret Woodrow Wilson (1886–1944) born 16 Apr 1886, died 12 Feb 1944.
    • Jessie Woodrow Wilson (1887–1933) born 28 Aug 1887, died 15 Jan 1933.
    • Eleanor Randolph Wilson (1889–1967) born 16 Oct 1889, died 5 Apr 1967.
  • By Edith:
    • None

Personal Description:

  • Height: 5' 11".
  • Build: 175-185 pounds.
  • Hair Color: Brown to Gray.
  • Eye Color: blue-gray.


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