William R. Tolbert, Jr.

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William Richard Tolbert, Jr. (May 13, 1913April 12, 1980) was president of Liberia from 1971 to 1980. Trained as a civil servant, he entered the country's House of Representatives in 1943 for the True Whig Party, then the only legal party in the country. He was elected vice president to William V.S. Tubman in 1955 and served in that position until Tubman's death in 1971.

Upon becoming president with Tubman's death, Tolbert initiated some liberal reforms and allowed the creation of an opposition party, the Progressive Alliance of Liberia, the first opposition in 125 years of Liberia's independence. Though reelected in 1975, his government was criticized sharply for the deep economic disparities between different sectors of the population, notably the Americo-Liberians, who had dominated the country since independence, and the various indigenous ethnic groups that constituted the majority of the population.

Tensions came to a head in April 1979, when hundreds of protesters marched through the streets of the capital, Monrovia, demonstrating against the sharp rise in the price of rice. Tolbert ordered his troops to fire on the demonstrators, and some seventy people were killed. Despite efforts to restore order, rioting ensued throughout Liberia, and attempts to quash the opposition by arresting its leaders failed.

On April 12, 1980, Tolbert was overthrown and killed in a coup led by Samuel K. Doe, an ethnic Krahn. With his death, Americo-Liberian domination of the country came to an end.



Preceded by:
William Tubman
President of Liberia
1971–1980
Succeeded by:
Samuel Doe

Template:End boxde:William R. Tolbert, Jr. sv:William R. Tolbert jr

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