Tubman, William Vacanarat Shadrach
President of Liberia
Considered the man who modernized LIBERIA, William Vacanarat Shadrach Tubman served as president of that nation for 27 years. Born in southeastern Liberia, Tubman was a descendant of freed American slaves who had moved to Liberia from Georgia in the 1800s. A member of Liberia's ruling class, he received a college education and became a lawyer in 1917. Because he often took legal cases without receiving payment, Tubman became known as a “poor man's lawyer.”
Ambitious and well liked, Tubman joined the True Whig Party in 1923 and became the youngest senator in Liberia's history. He became a member of the Supreme Court in 1937 and was elected president of Liberia in 1944. Although he imposed one-man rule, Tubman remained a popular leader. He organized economic development programs, established a national public school system, extended full rights of citizenship to Africans in remote areas of the country, and gave all Liberians the right to vote. In addition, in 1963 Tubman helped draw up plans for the ORGANIZATION OF AFRICAN UNITY (OAU), an organization founded to promote harmony and cooperation among African governments.