State Historic Site

Trail End

Woodrow Wilson (AHC)

Four Wyoming Governors (AHC)

A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site

April 2016 - December 2016

Politics As Usual

Personalities, Scandals & Legacies 
in American & Wyoming Politics, 1912-1932

The Wilson Scandals


​SENATOR KENDRICK’S TIME in office spanned portions of five presidential administrations: Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Each of those administrations – with the possible exception of Coolidge’s – suffered from scandal:

  • Roosevelt didn’t take Hitler seriously.
  • Hoover mishandled the Great Depression.
  • Harding permitted raids on the Naval oil reserves at Wyoming’s Teapot Dome.
  • Wilson was drawn into scandals involving the handling of World War One, alleged homosexual activity at a Rhode Island naval base, and the manner in which the country was run while he was recovering from a stroke in 1919.


It was another Wilson scandal, however, that came back to haunt America as recently as 2015. First, a little about his political career.



WILSON VS. HUGHES

FIRST ELECTED TO the presidency in 1912, Democrat Woodrow Wilson faced a new challenger for his place in the White House in 1916: recently retired Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes. Like the Virginia-born Wilson, New York native Hughes was a minister’s son. Both attended private schools and went on to Ivy League universities (Brown for Hughes, Princeton for Wilson). Both trained as lawyers and actually taught together at the New York Law School before pursuing their respective political careers.

In 1907, Hughes was elected Governor of New York; he was appointed to the United States Supreme Court in 1910. After serving as president of Princeton for eight years, Wilson took the oath of office as Governor of New Jersey in 1911. In 1912, with the support of Southern Democrats, Wilson took a run at the presidency. With the Bull Moose Party splitting the Republican vote, Wilson won with only 41 percent of the popular vote. Four years later, he was challenged by Hughes.

Another political progressive, Hughes ran on a platform so similar to Wilson’s that Theodore Roosevelt once noted that the only difference between the two was “a shave.” In the end, Wilson won the election, due in part to his support for the eight-hour work day. 



A FAILURE AT RACE RELATIONS

DESPITE HIS RECORD as a Progressive working for the ideals of democracy and freedom both at home and abroad, Woodrow Wilson was anything but progressive when it came to race relations.

When he took office in 1913, President Wilson authorized the immediate reversal of a decades-long policy allowing the full racial integration of federal agencies. Almost overnight, restrooms, cafeterias and work spaces in federal buildings became segregated. His move cost good workers their jobs, and good people their dignity.

In late 2015, Wilson’s segregationist legacy was recalled when African American students at his alma mater, Princeton University, protested to have his name and image removed from the school’s buildings.