Born in Staunton, Virginia, to a slaveholding family, Wilson spent his early years in Augusta, Georgia, and Columbia, South Carolina. His father was a leading Southern Presbyterian and helped to found the Presbyterian Church in the United States. After earning a Ph. D. in political science from Johns Hopkins University, Wilson taught at various schools before taking a position at Princeton. In 1910, Democratic leaders recruited him to run for the position of Governor of New Jersey. Serving from 1911 to 1913, Wilson broke with party bosses and won the passage of several progressive reforms. Wilson's success in New Jersey gave him a national reputation as a progressive reformer, and his Southern roots helped him win favor in that region. After several ballots, the 1912 Democratic National Convention selected Wilson as the party's presidential nominee. Theodore Roosevelt's third-party candidacy split the Republican Party, which re-nominated incumbent President William Howard Taft. Wilson won the 1912 election with a plurality of the popular vote and a large majority in the Electoral College.