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Professor W. Barksdale Maynard – Woodrow Wilson 


Lecturer - art and architectural history

Princeton University and Johns Hopkins University, 2002-15 


Woodrow Wilson:  Princeton to the Presidency (Yale University Press, 2008) "A fascinating account"--Bill Bradley; "Masterful"--James Baker; Of "high value"--George Will

Selected works

  • The Brandywine:  An Intimate Portrait 

  • Princeton:  America's Campus 

  • Buildings of Delaware, Buildings of the U.S. Series

  • Walden Pond:  A History 

  • Architecture in the United States, 1800-1850 

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Episode #1

Q: Professor W. Barksdale Maynard – Woodrow Wilson - Intro


  • Like Wilson, I am a southerner who attended Princeton

  • Fascinated by Wilson’s contradictions

  • Most perplexing, strangest, maddening

  • Southerner – but not typical, Academic - who hated academia

  • Shy person who wanted to “rule the world”

Episode #2

Q: What were the early influences that shaped Woodrow Wilson?


  • Key is his father, Joseph Wilson

  • Father was larger than life, titanic ego

  • Told son that he would be great

  • Instilled belief that dynamic speakers can sway crowds

  • Taught to fight for what you want

Episode #3

Q: Why did Wilson choose to attend Princeton University?


  • Princeton was a famous university

  • 4th oldest US university

  • Strong Presbyterian influence

  • National reputation

  • Fit young Tommy Wilson’s ambitions

Episode #4

Q: How does Wilson become president of Princeton?


  • Controversial choice for faculty position - 1890

  • Distinguished scholar of American history

  • Most popular lecturer at Princeton

  • Rising up the ranks – becomes president of Princeton 1902

  • Reforms everything, great innovator, progressive

Episode #5

Q:  What was Princeton’s student body in early 1900s?


  • Few colleges in those days compared to now

  • Overwhelming Episcopalian and Presbyterian

  • 6% Catholic

  • 6% Jewish No African Americans, No women

  • Intolerant of “outsiders?

Episode #6

Q: What were Wilson’s strengths?


  • Genius; ready voraciously; outstanding comprehension

  • Tireless, super human worker

  • Ambitious; great orator; spoke all across the country

  • Princeton – 4 fat years – persuasive, major reforms

  • White House – 4 fat years of progress

Episode #7

Q: What were Wilson’s shortcomings?


  • Wilson was a paradox, most perplexing

  • Could be extremely difficult

  • Demanded full loyalty

  • Own worse enemy

  • Belief that he was ordained from above

  • Modeled himself after other “great” men

  • Health issues; theory that he suffered mini strokes

Episode #8

Q: What is Wilson’s path from Princeton to Presidency?


  • After great reforms at Princeton, Wilson faces pushback

  • Quad Fight, Famous Graduate Feud

  • Progressivism sweeping country

  • Opportunity to run for NJ Governor

  • Governor Wilson runs and wins White House in 1912

Episode #9

Q: Where did Wilson develop his political philosophy?


  • Wilson is raised in a rectory; his father was a minister

  • Wilson was frugal, stingy

  • Gilded Age of America; tremendous wealth

  • Wilson comes to despise Big Business, Trusts, Power of Wealth

  • Develops into a reformer, “progressive”

Episode #10

Q: How does Wilson compare to Roosevelt?


  • Thru line running from Wilson to Franklin Roosevelt

  • Roosevelt served as Wilsons’ Assistant Secretary of Navy

  • FDR in 1930s is looking back at Wilson

  • Wilson’s unfinished business is picked up by later Democrats

Episode #11

Q: What was Wilson’s foreign policy achievement?


  • Wilson fought to keep USA out of World War I

  • Shaped by the horrors of the Civil War

  • Strong advocate of League of Nations

  • Visionary; Heroic determination to get US into League

Episode #12

Q: How did Wilson view Zionism & the Jews?


  • Called the most religious president ever

  • Appoints Louis Brandeis as first Jewish Supreme Court Justice

  • Backs the Balfour Resolution

  • “Privilege to restore the Holy Land to the Jewish People”

  • Wide Jewish support for Wilson in 1912 election

Episode #13

Q: 2021: What happened to Wilson’s legacy?


  • Extraordinary collapse of Wilson’s reputation

  • Princeton removes Wilson’s name from school

  • Writings in History of America textbook are dreadful

Full Interview - Professor W. Barksdale Maynard

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