Historical Highlights

A Joint Session of Congress memorializing President Woodrow Wilson

December 15, 1924
A Joint Session of Congress memorializing President Woodrow Wilson Image courtesy of Library of Congress A close friend of President Woodrow Wilson, Dr. Edwin Anderson Alderman memorialized him during a 1924 Joint Session.
On this date, Dr. Edwin Anderson Alderman, president of the University of Virginia, addressed a Joint Session of Congress memorializing his close friend, the late President Woodrow Wilson. Alderman and Wilson grew up together in Wilmington, North Carolina, where Wilson’s father was pastor of a Presbyterian church that Alderman’s family attended. Much of the speech countered critics’ charges that the 28th U.S. President mismanaged the peace process in the wake of the First World War resulting in the failure of the U.S. to join the League of Nations. “Woodrow Wilson sought to give the twentieth century a faith to inspire it and to justify the sacrifice of millions of lives in the Great War, and if there was a failure it was humanity’s failure,” Alderman declared. “I envisage Woodrow Wilson as a victor and conqueror as he returned to America, untouched by sordidness or dishonor, unsurpassed in moral devotion, and offering to his country leadership in the broadest and worthiest case in all the story of human struggle for a better life.” Among those who listened to the address were President Calvin Coolidge, members of Coolidge’s Cabinet, Justices of the Supreme Court, members of Wilson’s Cabinet (including former Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan and former Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer), and Wilson’s widow, Edith Bolling Wilson. The New York Times reported that “the eloquence of [Alderman’s] diction made a profound impression on that silent gathering. . . .” Georgia Representative William Upshaw was so moved by Alderman’s eulogy that he rose on the House Floor a few days later to recommend “Alderman for President.” “Surely, if those super-Virginians—Washington and Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, Tyler and Wilson—rule us from their urns,” Upshaw declared, “we should rejoice to place this premier scholar-statesman where his princely powers and Alpine personality would stir the pride of all American patriots, regardless of party lines.”

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