Home>Presidential Election>2020 was a bad year for Woodrow Wilson

Gov. Phil Murphy observes a moment of silence in honor of the life of George Floyd at his desk in the Office of the Governor on June 4, 2020. Murphy's desk is the one Woodrow Wilson used while serving as governor from 1911 to 1913.

2020 was a bad year for Woodrow Wilson

By David Wildstein, February 15 2021 12:09 am

History hit the reset button on Woodrow Wilson in 2020.

Ninety-six years after his death, the 13th president of Princeton University, 34th Governor of New Jersey and 28th President of the United States faced a reckoning with what New
Jersey’s 56th Governor, Phil Murphy, called an “uneven history as it relates to race.”

Wilson’s handling of race issues — U.S. Postal Service offices, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Treasury were segregated shortly after he took federal office in 1913 — spurred Princeton University to drop the name of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and Wilson College; Monmouth University dropped Wilson’s name from one of their buildings.

Murphy acknowledged the irony of fighting systemic racism in the United States from behind Wilson’s desk; in June, he stopped using it.

Among the casualties of New Jersey’s new view of Wilson was George Helmy.  When the governor gave up the Wilson desk, he took the one Helmy used.

Gov. Woodrow Wilson at his desk in the New Jersey Statehouse. He served as governor of New Jersey from 1911 to 1913. Photo courtesy of the New Jersey Office of Legislative Services.
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