Born on December 28th, 1856, in Staunton, Virginia, politician and academic Thomas Woodrow Wilson was the 28th president of the United States, serving two consecutive terms from 1913 to 1921. Wilson grew up in the U.S. South during the American Civil War and graduated in 1879 from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), with a degree in political philosophy and history. In the beginning, Wilson attempted to become a lawyer, so he set up a law firm in Georgia in 1882, but his dislike for the practice led him to quit and focus on political science instead. After obtaining a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University, Wilson took up a post as a professor at Bryn Mawr College, a newly established women’s college, from 1885 to 1888. He taught a variety of subjects that ranged from ancient history to politics.
In 1888, Wilson began to work as a teacher at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where he also became the football team’s coach and started a debate team. Wilson’s academic reputation continued to expand during this time, and he became known as an excellent public speaker. In 1890, he was elected to the Chair of Jurisprudence and Political Economy at the now-called Princeton University, and was eventually named president of the university in 1902. He remained in his position until 1910, when he decided to run for governor of New Jersey. After introducing several progressive reforms at the university, he had become disenchanted with the job and sought for a change. Over the course of his academic career, Wilson published various books on politics and history, as well as articles in the journal Political Science Quarterly.
In 1911, Wilson was appointed governor of New Jersey for the Democratic Party. While in office, he introduced a series of laws that regulated and improved the conditions of the workforce, as well as antitrust laws. Only a year after having taken office as governor, Wilson became a strong contender for the 1912 presidential elections. After defeating the Republican William Howard Taft and third-party nominee Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson became the 28th President of the United States, the first southerner to do so since before the Civil War. Wilson served for two consecutive terms, from 1913 until 1921. During his tenure as president, which saw the outbreak of World War I in 1917, Wilson saw the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, passed laws that forbade child labor, focused on his New Freedom domestic agenda, including tax reforms and low tariffs. However, he remained a strong supporter of segregation. His second term in office was dominated by foreign policies, in which he kept the country neutral and out of war. He tried to broker peace between the Allies and the Central Powers, and in 1918 advocated for the creation of the League of Nations (the precursor of the United Nations) when he signed the Treaty of Versailles in Paris.
In 1919, Wilson suffered from a stroke that left him debilitated and largely incapacitated to perform his duties as president. His wife and doctor largely controlled access to him and concealed the severity of his illness to the public. Despite his condition, Wilson intended to run for a third term, but failed to secure the Democratic Party’s endorsement to become a candidate. In 1920, Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his role as founder of the League of Nations. After leaving the White House in 1921, Wilson retired to Washington D.C., where he tried to establish a law practice which lasted barely a year, and to write, but his poor health condition prevented it. A few months before his death, Wilson delivered his final public speech on Armistice Day. Woodrow Wilson died on February 3rd, 1924, at the age of 67, following a rapid decline of his health in the years after his presidency concluded. To this day, he is generally regarded as one of the top U.S. presidents thanks to his progressive reforms and liberalist policies.