Woodrow Wilson
28th President of the United States

Born: December 28, 1856 in Staunton, Virginia

Served: March 4, 1913 - March 4, 1921
Died: February 3, 1924 in Washington D.C.
Buried: Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

Wilson            In July of 2002, my wife and I took our nephew Damian for a weekend visit to Manassas, Virginia. We toured the Civil War battlefield of Bull Run (Manses). On Sunday, we drove up to Washington D.C. to the Washington National Cathedral for the 11 am service. Even though we are not Episcopalians, we wanted to go anyway. Before the service, we walked around the cathedral, which is huge. It is a Gothic cathedral and is the second largest cathedral in the country (after St. John the Divine in Manhattan) and the sixth largest cathedral in the world. I was under the misconception that Wilson was in the crypt beneath the main floor. As we walked around the nave, we came upon Wilson. He is in the Wilson Bay at the center of the nave on the south side. They have a American flag, a New Jersey flag and the flag of Princeton University in the bay. His wife, Edith Boll Wilson is also buried there beneath the floor. In all, there are 150 people buried in the cathedral. The most famous of these, besides Wilson, are Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan, Admiral George Dewey (Spanish-American War hero) and Cordell Hull (F.D.R.'s Secretary of State). It was very hot that day, after the service we went to lunch in Georgetown.

            Born in Virginia, Wilson  received an undergraduate degree from Princeton University, a law degree from University of Virginia and his PhD from John Hopkins, all by the age of 30 (1886). Four years later, he was back at Princeton as a history professor. Within 12 years, he was the president of the university. Eight years later, in 1910, he was elected Governor of New Jersey.  Two years later, he ran for President of the United States and won again. This was made possible because the Republican Party was split between incumbent President William Taft and independent former President Teddy Roosevelt. Wilson carried 42 states and 435 Electoral votes. If Roosevelt had not run and those people had voted for Republican Taft, the election results would have been drastically different. He would have carried 14 states and only 142 Electoral votes. As it was, he only had a majority in 10 states (all southern states). It's funny to see how democratic the South was in 1912. Wilson carried South Carolina with 96% of the vote and mississippi with 89% of the vote.

Woodrow Wilson            As president, he worked on domestic issues like child labor laws and the first income tax law. In 1916, as Europe was in the midst of the First World War, he ran for re-election on the slogan "he kept us out of war." Of course, a country of our size and importance would not be able to stay out of the war for long especially after the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1916. The U.S. entered in 1917 and helped turn the tide of the war against Germany. His great hope after the war was the League of Nations. Accepted in Europe, it was opposed by the U.S. Congress. When Congress ultimately rejected it, Wilson suffered his greatest defeat. However, the idea would inspirer the future United Nations.

Woodrow Wilson            When Wilson was inaugurated in 1913, his first wife, Ellen was next to him. A year later, on August 6, 1914 (as World War I was starting), she died of Bright's Disease. She was buried in Georgia with her family. Wilson met and married Edith Bolling Gault, a widower herself, a little over a year later. She took care of Wilson when his health started to fail due to overwork. He suffered from chronic headaches, stomach problems and high blood pressure. A stroke in 1906 left him blind in one eye. Wilson suffered a serious stroke in 1919, which left his paralyzed on one side and barely able to speak. Edith began to run things for her husband. To what degree she was in charge is being debated.

            After the Wilson's left the White House in 1921, they lived in a house at 2340 S Street, N.W. in Washington D.C. Wilson rarely left the house, though he did attend President Harding's funeral in August of 1923. Six months later, Wilson was blind and barely able to move or speak. On February 3, 1924, with his Edith and daughter Margaret by him, his heart stopped. On February 8, a private funeral service was held in his house, attended by President Coolidge and his wife. Edith, still overcome with grief, watched from the top of the stairs. 30,000 people stood in a bitter cold rain to watch the funeral procession. a military escort took Wilson, in a black coffin, to Washington National Cathedral (still being built) where the funeral service was held. Wilson was interred in the crypt below in the Chapel of St. Joseph of Arimathea. In 1956, he was moved upstairs to his present place. His wife, Edith lived for 37 years. In 1961, she rode in President Kennedy's inaugural parade. She died later in the year on her husbands birthday and is buried in the Wilson's Bay next to her husband.

Here are some webpages of interest:
The Woodrow Wilson House
The Woodrow Wilson Birthplace and Museum
White House Biography of Woodrow Wilson
The Internet Public Library Biography
The American President Biography
Washington National Cathedral

 Back: William H. Taft
Back to Main List
Next: Warren G. Harding