The first President Johnson was, of course, Andrew Johnson, the man who succeeded Lincoln to become the seventeenth and most controversial President, This popularly written biography (by the author of Debonair Scoundrel and Delmonico's) describes the rise of Johnson--who never attended school a day in his life--from the status of ""poor white trash"" in North Carolina to the White House. It is Thomas' intention to present Johnson the man rather than Johnson the politico, and his subject emerges as the traditional Johnson of history' the ""plebeian and patriot,"" tactless, uncommunicative, sincere, gallant; and consumed by the necessity to step out of the shadow of his giant predecessor. If it is not a strikingly original portrait, it is at least one stripped of the mythology by virtue of which presidential biography, at least at the popular level, too often takes on the aspect of hagiography. Thomas wisely (though sometimes irritatingly) resists the temptation to pass judgment on Johnson's accomplishments and policies, but, by acute interpretation of his sources--particularly of the Johnson Papers--he manages to achieve depth of understanding. For individual aspects of Johnson's career, the reader must still be referred to such works as that of McKittrick on Johnson and the Reconstruction, and of Lomask on the fascinating issue of Impeachment. For a general treatment, however, The First President Johnson is superior to anything available today.