Presidents

presidents

Liberia Presidents

The President of the Republic of Liberia is the head of state and government of Liberia, as well as serves as the leader of the executive branch and as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia. Prior to the independence of Liberia in 1847, executive power in the Commonwealth of Liberia was held by the Governor of Liberia, who was appointed by the American Colonization Society. The 1847 Constitution transferred the executive powers of the governorship to the presidency, which was largely modeled on the presidency of the United States.

Following the establishment of the Commonwealth of Liberia in 1838, executive power was vested in the Governor of Liberia, who was appointed and served at the pleasure of the American Colonization Society. The first governor, Thomas Buchanan, served from 1838 until his death in 1841. He was succeeded by Joseph Jenkins Roberts, the first black governor of Liberia. Under the 1986 Constitution, the president is directly elected by eligible voters to a six-year term, which may be renewed once. Overall, 22 individuals have served as president. On January 16, 2006, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was sworn in as the twenty-fourth and current president, making her the first elected female president in Africa.

The presidency of Liberia is largely modeled on the presidency of the United States. The 1986 Constitution gives the president the power to appoint all cabinet ministers, judges, ambassadors, sheriffs, county officials and military officers with the advice and consent of the Senate. Additionally, the president has the power to dismiss all appointees from office at his or her discretion. The president may also grant pardons or revoke sentences and fines. The president conducts all matters of foreign policy, though any treaties or international agreements must be ratified by both houses of the Legislature. Furthermore, the president serves as the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of Liberia.

The Constitution also grants the president the power to declare a state of emergency during times of war or civil unrest and suspend civil liberties during the emergency as necessary, with the exception of habeas corpus. Within seven days of the declaration, the president must state to the Legislature the reasons for the declaration, which both houses must then approve by a two-thirds majority. Otherwise, the president must repeal the state of emergency.

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Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf
Born October 29, 1938

The 24th and current President of Liberia since 2006, won the 2005 presidential election and took office on January 16, 2006. She was a successful candidate for re-election in 2011. Johnson-Sirleaf is the first elected female head of state in Africa. In June 2016, she was elected as the Chair of the Economic Community of West African States, making her the first female to occupy that position since it was formed.

President Johnson-Sirleaf was jointly awarded the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize with Leymah Gbowee of Liberia and Tawakkol Karman of Yemen. The women were recognized “for their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was conferred the Indira Gandhi Prize by President of India Pranab Mukherjee on 12 September 2013. As of 2014, she is listed as the 70th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes.

Vice President – Joseph Boakai

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Joseph Jenkins Roberts
March 15, 1809 – February 24, 1876

The first (1848–1856) and seventh (1872–1876) President of Liberia. Born free in Norfolk, Virginia, US, Roberts emigrated to Liberia in 1829 as a young man. He opened a trading store in Monrovia, and later engaged in politics. When Liberia became independent in July 26, 1847, Roberts was elected the first Black American president for the Republic of Liberia, serving until 1856. In 1872 he was elected again to serve as Liberia’s seventh president.

Vice President(s)

Nathaniel Brander
Anthony D. Williams
Stephen Allen Benson

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Stephen Allen Benson
May 21, 1816 – January 24, 1865

Served as the 2nd President of Liberia from 1856 to 1864. Prior to that, he served as the 3rd Vice President of Liberia from 1854 to 1856 under President Joseph Jenkins Roberts.

Benson was born in Cambridge, Maryland, United States, to free African American parents. In 1822, his family expatriated to the newly created country of Liberia, on the ship Brig Strong. Shortly after his arrival in August 1822, the colony was taken over by African natives, holding Benson and his relatives captives for four months.

Vice Presidents(s)

Beverly Page Yates
Daniel Bashiel Warner

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Daniel Bashiel Warner
April 19, 1815 – December 1, 1880

Daniel B. Warner was born on Hookstown Road in Baltimore County, Maryland to a father who was a farmer and ex-slave who acquired his freedom one year before Warner was born.

Warner served as the 3rd President of Liberia from 1864 to 1868. Prior to this, he served as the 5th Vice President of Liberia under President Stephen Allen Benson from 1860 to 1864, and as the 3rd Secretary of State in the cabinet of Joseph Jenkins Roberts from 1854 to 1856. He also served as a member of the Liberian House of Representatives and Liberian Senate.

President Warner wrote the lyrics to the Liberian National Anthem, which the country officially adopted when it got independence from the American Colonization Society in 1847.

Vice President – James M. Priest

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James Spriggs Payne
December 19, 1819 – January 31, 1882

James S. Payne served as the fourth and eighth President of Liberia, from 1868 to 1870 and from 1876 to 1878. He was the last President to belong to Liberia’s Republican Party.

Payne was born in Richmond, Virginia, in 1819 to former slaves who were each of mixed race, of European and African ancestry.  When he was ten years old, his family emigrated to Liberia through sponsorship by the American Colonization Society on the ship Harriet. On the same ship was Joseph Jenkins Roberts, Liberia’s future first president.

In January 1882, he was awarded an honorary doctor of divinity degree by Liberia College (now University of Liberia) for his life achievements. The Spriggs Payne Airport in the Monrovia area is named after him.

Vice President – Joseph Gibson

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Edward James Roye
February 3, 1815 – February 11, 1872

Presidency (1870-71)

E. J. Roye served as the fifth President of Liberia from 1870 to his overthrow in 1871 and subsequent violent death. He had previously served as the 4th Chief Justice of Liberia from 1865 until 1868. He was the first member of Liberia’s True Whig Party to serve as President.

Born into a prosperous African American family in Newark, Ohio, Roye was a descendant of the Igbo people. His father, John Roye, managed a ferry across the Wabash River at Terre Haute, Indiana and acquired considerable land in Terre Haute as well as Vandalia in the neighboring state of Illinois.

Attracted by the American Colonization Society, Roye immigrated to Liberia in 1846, and set up business as a merchant. Within three years of his arrival, he became active in Liberian politics. Before being elected president he served as Speaker of the Liberian House of Representatives and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia.

Vice President – James Skivring Smith

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James Skivring Smith
February 26, 1825 – 1892

James S. Smith served as the 6th President of Liberia from 1871 to 1872. Prior to this, he served as the 8th Vice President of Liberia from 1870 to 1871 under President Edward James Roye and as Secretary of State from 1856 to 1860 in the cabinet of President Stephen Allen Benson.

Smith was born in Charleston, South Carolina on February 26, 1825, the fourth of seven children of free blacks Carlos and Catharine Smith. He and his family arrived in Liberia in 1833, and his parents died of malaria within one year of their arrival. After working with a white doctor of the American Colonization Society, Smith returned to the United States to study medicine at the University of Vermont College of Medicine. He transferred to the Berkshire Medical College in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, from which he received his medical degree in 1848. Smith was the first African American to receive a medical degree from an American college. He then returned to the newly independent Liberia, working for the ACS as a doctor.

Smith served as Secretary of State from 1856 to 1860 and was later elected as a senator from Grand Bassa County from 1868 to 1870. In the 1869 presidential election, Smith was elected vice president under President Edward James Roye. The two were the first True Whig politicians to hold their respective offices. On October 26, 1871, President Roye was forcibly removed from office after unconstitutionally extending his term, leading Smith to serve the remaining two months of Roye’s term as president. Smith’s tenure as president remains the shortest in Liberian history.

Vice President – Vacant

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Anthony William Gardiner
1820–1885

The ninth President of Liberia from 1878 until 1883, Anthony W. Gardiner was the first of a series of True Whig presidents who held power uninterruptedly until 1980.

President Gardiner was born in Southampton County, Virginia in the United States. In 1831, when he was still a child, his family relocated to Liberia under the sponsorship of the American Colonization Society. Gardiner received his law degree in Liberia and, in 1847, he served as a delegate to the National Convention, which drafted Liberia’s declaration of independence and constitution. He became Liberia’s first attorney general and later served in the National Legislature from 1855 to 1871.

President Gardiner resigned on January 20, 1883, due to a serious illness. He was succeeded by the vice-president, Alfred F. Russell.

vice-president – Alfred F. Russell

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Alfred Francis Russell
August 25, 1817 – April 4, 1884

A missionary, planter and politician, Alfred F. Russell was elected as vice-president of Liberia in 1881 under Anthony William Gardiner. He succeeded to the presidency after the latter resigned due to poor health and served as tenth President of Liberia from 1883 to 1884.

Born in Lexington, Kentucky, Russell was emancipated in 1833 (with his mother Amelie “Milly” Crawford) by their mistress Mary Owen Todd Russell Wickliffe (Russell’s grandmother through his white father). Wickliffe also emancipated his cousin, Lucretia Russell, and her four children. Both families emigrated together from the United States to Liberia that year. Alfred Russell served as a Methodist missionary and later owned a large coffee and sugarcane farm. Russell continued to serve as a Methodist minister after entering politics; he was also elected to the Liberian Senate.

Russell was trained to be a teacher after having suffered an illness that caused an injury in one leg. He later became an Episcopal priest in the St. Paul River area, where he had 200 acres in the Clay Ashland district, purchased for the free people of color by the Kentucky Colonization Society, an affiliate of the ACS. He cultivated sugar cane and coffee, for which he hired indigenous workers.

Russell also became active in politics. In 1881 he ran for vice-president with Anthony W. Gardiner, who won the presidency for a third term. When health issues resulted in Gardiner’s resigning three years later, Russell became president.

Vice President – vacant

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Hilary Richard Wright Johnson
June 1, 1837 – 1901

The 11th President of Liberia from 1884 to 1892, Hilary R. W. Johnson, was elected four times. He served as Secretary of State before his presidency, under the administration of Edward James Roye.

Johnson was the first Liberian president born in Africa. His father was Elijah Johnson, one of the original African-American settlers who founded the colony at Cape Mesurado. His son Frederick Eugene Richelieu Johnson was Liberia’s longest serving Chief Justice.

Nominated by both the Republican Party and True Whig parties, Johnson ran unopposed in his first election and then declared himself a True Whig after winning the election.

Vice President – James Thompson

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Joseph James Cheeseman
1843 – November 12, 1896

The 12th President of Liberia was born in Edina, Grand Bassa County, Liberia; and was elected three times on the True Whig ticket. Cheeseman was educated at Liberia College, now University of Liberia.

Ethnic struggles with the Kru, Gola, and Grebo tribe who resented incursions into their territory occurred several times during Cheeseman’s reign. Cheeseman initially attempted to settle tribal conflicts by peaceful negotiations. One notable uprising occurred in 1893 when the Grebo tribe attacked the settlement of Harper. Troops and the gunboat Gorronomah were sent to defeat the tribesmen.

President Cheeseman died in office on November 12, 1896, and vice president William David Coleman served the remainder of the term and well as another four years until 1900.

Vice President – William D. Coleman

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William D. Coleman
(1842–1908)

American-born Liberian politician, a True Whig Party member, and the 13th President of Liberia, President William D. Coleman served from 1896 to 1900. Immigrating to Liberia in 1853, he worked his way up to election to the House of Representatives and served as Speaker of the House. Later he served in the Senate and then as Vice President before assuming the Presidency when Joseph James Cheeseman died in office.

Coleman was born in Fayette County, Kentucky, and he emigrated to Liberia with his family when he was 11 years old. Arriving in 1853, the family consisted of William, his now widowed mother, and three others, all settling in Clay-Ashland near Monrovia. Coleman was trained as a carpenter and had other manual labor jobs before becoming a successful trader. Studying at night, he picked up the education he had abandoned as a child when poverty had prevented further schooling.

After a falling out with political allies and his own cabinet over his policies placed more pressure on his administration, he resigned from office in December 1900. Coleman’s successor was his Secretary of State, Garreston W. Gibson, since the Vice President had already died in office. Under existing succession laws Robert H. Marshall was set to become the President as Speaker of the House, but others felt he was unsuited for the position. The National Legislature then repealed the 1873 succession law and placed Gibson in the office of President.

After resigning from the Presidency, Coleman continued to be an active player in Liberian politics. He ran for president three more times (1901, 1903 and 1905) as a member of the People’s Party, losing each election. William David Coleman died in 1908 in Clay-Ashland at the age of 65. His son, Samuel David Coleman, was also involved in politics and was killed by government forces on June 27, 1955, after accusations of a failed coup.

Vice President – Joseph J. Ross

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Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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