The vice presidency throughout the world can be a very challenging job.
The challenge is not so much in what the occupant can do to move the country forward; but in how well he or she is able to behave himself or herself to maintain the confidence that the superior, the President, has in the Veep.
Remember, both of President Tubman’s Vice Presidents—the first, Counsellor-at-Law Clarence Lorenzo Simpson and the second, the Reverend William R. Tolbert, Member of the House of Representatives—both had far more academic education than W.V.S. Tubman. Both Simpson and Tolbert were graduates of Liberia College (LC, now University of Liberia-UL). Tolbert even graduated dux of his class in 1935. And Simpson was not only a prominent Liberian lawyer like Tubman, but Simpson had held so many major positions in government, including Speaker of the House of Representatives, Secretary General of the ruling True Whig Party and Secretary of State.
Tubman, on the other hand, had attained not more than a strong elementary and early high school—probably first and second year—education at the Cape Palmas Seminary, where the Methodists trained their pastors. He then went on to study apprentice Law under Counselor Monroe Cummings.
So academically speaking, Vat (as Tubman was affectionately called by many), was no academic match either to Simpson or Tolbert. And yet, neither of these men—Simpson or Tolbert—were any match to Tubman in the art of politics. Why? Because, already as a very young fellow growing up in Cape Palmas, Tubman began developing love and respect for people—how? By giving away his clothes, shoes and food to his less fortunate mates in Cape Palmas. By this, he immediately started gathering people around him, slowly developing charisma (charm, magnetism). And when he finally became a lawyer, he went about pleading the cases of people who were unable to pay him. So they started calling him “Poor Man’s Lawyer.”
So by 1923, when Marylanders were looking for new Senator to represent them in the Senate, they chose young Shad Tubman. But the True Whig Party told them the TWP caucus, created by President Charles D.B. King, had already chosen a candidate to run as Maryland Senator.
The shocked Marylanders immediately REJECTED that proposition and started singing, “No Tubman, no Senator!”
The TWP quickly realized that the Marylanders were dead serious, so the party backed down. That is how W.V.S. Tubman, at the age of 28, was elected the youngest Senator in the history of the Republic.
So you can see how Tubman grew up “street smart” because unlike so many others from the middle and upper classes, he befriended the people down there—the underclass, who have, from time immemorial, been in the majority everywhere.
In the early 1940s, then, when President Edwin Barclay was seeking a successor, he gave the nod to now Associate Justice W.V.S. Tubman, bypassing other eminent politicians such as C.L. Simpson, Sr. and the wealthy James (Jimmy) Francis Cooper.
Tubman continued his affiliation with the underclass when, early in his administration, he started sowing the seeds of his Unification Policy by reaching out to the people of the Interior.
Tubman chose Simpson as his first VP (1943) and in 1951 upon seeking the second term of office, shipped off Simpson as Ambassador to Washington, D.C. and chose Careysburg’s Benjamin Green Freeman, Speaker of the House, as Tubman’s running mate. But Ben Freeman soon died suddenly, and Tubman chose W.R. Tolbert, Jr. as the new running mate. Tolbert played well his part as Veep for 19 years, being humble and subdued, doing little or nothing to cause Tubman to be suspicious of his Veep. Tubman died in office in July 1971 and then, Tolbert seized his chance.
We hope that these lessons have taught something to Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor.
Remember, too, that John F. Kennedy chose a man far more powerful than he, Lyndon Baines Johnson, as Veep in 1960. Lyndon, remember, was called at the time “master of the US Senate” because as a powerful Senate Majority Leader from Texas, he got what he wanted through the Senate. But though he, too, had run for the presidential nomination, he accepted Kennedy’s nomination as Veep and served well until Kennedy’s unfortunate assassination. Johnson, as former Master of the Senate, went on to accomplish much more than Kennedy could ever have in Congress—the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act (1964), etc.
Among most American presidents, Bill Clinton was one of the very few who gave real power to his Vice President, Al Gore. But Gore never got top heavy. He bade his time until, after the completion of President Clinton’s two terms, Gore was ready to throw his hat, albeit unsuccessfully, into the presidential race.
Yes, the position of Veep is very challenging indeed, but not so challenging as to cause the Veep to go off on his or her own tangent. Tolbert waited for 19 years. And you, Jewel?