After the war ended, the Presbyterian church itself came under heavy attack from the state's new Reconstructionist government. The church was seen as the embodiment of the Southern ideal, especially since many prominent members of the Church–including Doctor Joseph Wilson–had decided to split from the main church when the war erupted and form the Southern Presbyterian Church. These experiences made a deep impression on the future President. Tommy was forever the Southerner, from these postwar experiences of hardship until the day he died. He thought like a Southerner, acted like a Southerner, and prided himself on being one.
Ironically, the man who would later become one of the most powerful and influential educators of his time never received any formal schooling until a late age, primarily because many of the schools in the South had been closed during the Civil War. He could not even recite the alphabet until he was nine years old and could barely read two years after that. As the son of a prominent professor and clergyman who was trained in theology, the classics, and rhetoric, among other subjects, Tommy's family thought him to be a dolt and lost cause when it came to book learning. Nevertheless, his parents loved him dearly and tried to educate him with more hands-on techniques. His father often took him to various places throughout the region to expose him to new environments and see new things. After each trip Tommy was made to describe exactly what he had seen in order to develop his communication skills. The family also studied parts of the Bible together every day and especially on Sundays.