Woodrow Wilson – 1856-1924
Thomas Woodrow Wilson abandoned the practice of law to become a professor of American history and political science, was a prolific author on these subjects, and rose to the presidency of Princeton University. He was elected governor of New Jersey in 1910 and proved to be such an effective reformer that he earned the Democratic presidential nomination in 1912. He handily defeated both incumbent Republican William Howard Taft and third-party challenger Theodore Roosevelt.
During his first term, Wilson introduced a variety of reform legislation, including the Sixteenth Amendment, which provided for a federal income tax. He also steered America on a resolutely neutral course during World War I (the “Great War”), which had begun in Europe in July 1914.
Reelected in 1916, however, he led the country into the war (April 1917), in the belief that U.S. participation would give the country (and him) a strong hand in reshaping the world for a lasting peace. After the armistice, Wilson assumed a major guiding role in shaping the Treaty of Versailles, which included the founding of the League of Nations, an international body intended to resolve all future conflicts peacefully (for which Wilson received the 1919 Nobel Prize for Peace). A Republicancontrolled U.S. Senate, however, refused to ratify the treaty or the League, Wilson took his case to the public in a cross-country whistle-stop lecture tour, during which he collapsed from exhaustion.
After suffering a massive stroke on October 2, 1919, he was severely disabled, leaving his wife, Edith Gault Wilson, to manage many of the affairs of government for the rest of his second term.