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AUTHOR: JC Knowles (edited by Cheri Todd Molter; vetted by Daniel Whiting and Cheri Todd Molter)

In 1873, a sixteen-year-old lad entered Davidson College, a Presbyterian liberal arts college in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. At Davidson he was known as Thomas Wilson, or simply as Tommy to his classmates. Today, we remember him as Woodrow Wilson, our 28th president. His full name was Thomas Woodrow Wilson.

Wilson was a freshman in 1873, when the college still felt the effects of the Civil War. Students had to carry their own water and firewood at the school. Wilson was a very bright student, making excellent grades his first year. He was also member of the Eumenean Literary Society. Although a freshman, he wrote the Constitution for the Society. The Society had strict rules, and Wilson was fined three times for breaking them: One ten-cent fine was for sitting on the rostrum; the second was also a ten-cent fine, this time for talking; and the third was a twenty-cent fine for improper conduct in the hall. I’m sure it was a surprise to some of his classmates, years later, when he was elected president.

Wilson only spent his freshman year at Davidson, but he enjoyed his time there. His father was a Presbyterian professor at the Presbyterian Seminary at Columbia, South Carolina, and after his freshman year, his father left the Seminary and became the pastor of a church in Wilmington, North Carolina. The family took residence in Wilmington and young Wilson stayed home a year, due to illness, and then enrolled in Princeton University where he graduated in 1879.

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