GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The ongoing impeachment trial in the U.S. Senate has stirred national debate and carries national implications, but the subject of impeachment also has local roots.
The first president ever impeached, Andrew Johnson, is from Greeneville, Tenn.
It’s why staff at the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site report hearing more impeachment questions from their visitors from around the country.
Emma Murphy, a park guide for the site, said she takes pride in the one-on-one connection with the historical context of the site, sharing it with the public, and explaining the broader impact of Johnson’s political career.
The National Park Service provides an average of four guided tours of Johnson’s home daily. For the entire site, they average between 50,000 – 55,000 visitors every year.
With impeachment in the news, Murphy said she answers impeachment questions almost every day.
President Johnson was impeached over a move which was viewed as a breach of the Tenure of Office Act, among other issues. In a couple weeks of assuming office, Murphy explained Johnson became a harsh critic of what he called the “radical republican” agenda.
David Foster, Superintendent of the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, explained their jobs are to give the good and the bad sides of the 17th President of the United States.
Foster cited Johnson’s more than 40 years of public service, and his rags-to-riches story of being born into poverty and eventually, well — you know the end of the story.
Impeachment, Foster explained, has always been addressed in a small way in their programming, but the topic is much more prevalent given the current news.
He thinks the East Tennessee tie to impeachment is a testament to the constitution.
“It’s a living, breathing, document that was used back in the 1860s and something that is used today. I think that is the takeaway, the constitution prevails,” he said.
Kay and Davis Byrd both agreed, given the former president’s troubled past and race policies, the best way to describe their feelings about touring Johnson’s home is with the word interested rather than excited.
Given the impeachment trial taking place on the same day as their tour of the first impeached president’s home, Davis said, “It’s a little bit encouraging, to me, to know the country has gone through things in the past that put the nation in turmoil at the time, no reason to think that what’s happening now is going to turn out any different. The country will survive and perhaps learn from the process.”
“The country will survive as long as the constitution remains as it is,” Kay added.