Governors in American History

To commemorate their 2008 centennial, the National Governors Association (NGA) has, in conjunction with the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library, sponsored two books highlighting the central roles of governors in American history. By showcasing innovative new scholarship by scholars across the country, these books, A Legacy of Leadershipand A Legacy of Innovation, aim to inspire a new generation of scholars of history, political science, and public policy to turn their attention to the achievements of governors. These two books take different perspectives. While A Legacy of Leadership recounts the history of governors, A Legacy of Innovation evaluates the public policy issues that affected and were influenced by governors over the past century.


Over the last few years, the Library has hosted two post-doctoral fellows, Ethan Sribnick and Clayton McClure Brooks, acting as editors of these books. Woodrow Wilson's role in the founding of NGA made this a natural partnership. At one of the earliest meetings of the nation's governors, in 1910, then governor-elect Wilson outlined a lasting vision for the new organization. He correctly predicted, "If these conferences become fixed annual events, planned for and carried forward from year to year as an habitual means of working towards common ends of counsel and co-operation, this council will at least become an institution."


These two books celebrate the spirit of cooperation, leadership, and innovation that has been exemplified by many of the nation's governors.

A Legacy of Innovation

A Legacy of Leadership

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Wilson was president throughout World War I. He attempted to keep America out of the war and even won reelection with the slogan "He kept us out of war." Nonetheless, after the sinking of the Lusitania, continued run-ins with German submarines, and the release of the Zimmerman Telegram, America became involved. with the Lusitania, the continued harassment of American ships by German submarines, and the release of the Zimmerman Telegram meant that America joined the allies in April, 1917.

Woodrow Wilson was President when the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920 giving women the right to vote.

Wilson piloted the ship that brought America onto the world stage. He made the first steps of leading us out of isolationism, violating Washington's tenet of avoiding foreign entanglements.

He led America during World War I. His fervent hope was for the US to join a League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations.

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "Life does not consist in thinking, it consists in acting."

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "The Constitution was not made to fit us like a straitjacket. In its elasticity lies its chief greatness."

A Woodrow Wilson Quote: "I believe in democracy because it releases the energies of every human being."

The Seventeenth Amendment was formally adopted on May 31, 1913. Wilson had been president for almost three months at the time. The amendment provided for the direct election of senators. Prior to its adoption, Senators were chosen by state legislatures.

Wilson was the first president to receive a PhD which he got in Political Science from Johns Hopkins University. He had received his undergraduate degree from the College of New Jersey, renamed Princeton University in 1896.

Woodrow Wilson could not read during the first decade of his life. Though undiagnosed, he may have suffered from a learning disability

Woodrow Wilson was known as "Tommy" until his college years.

Woodrow Wilson during his boyhood, helped establish the "Lightfoot Baseball Club" with his friends. Wilson played second base and was an avid sport fan throughout his adult life.

Woodrow Wilson was the first president to attend the Major League Baseball Fall Classic. He saw the debut of a young 20 year old pitcher by the name of George Herman "Babe" Ruth.

Woodrow Wilson was a graduate of Princeton University and Johns Hopkins University and the only president to hold an earned doctoral degree.

Woodrow Wilson image is on the $100,000 bill although it is no longer in circulation