Samuel Doe Biography

(21st President of Liberia (1986 - 1990))

Birthday: May 6, 1951 (Taurus)

Born In: Tuzon, Liberia

Samuel Doe was a Liberian military leader and politician, who served as the president of Liberia from 1986 to 1990. He belonged to the African ethnic group called the Krahn. He was notorious for having led a military coup against the reigning president William Tolbert and his government in 1980. In this process, he killed a lot of Tolbert's followers and declared himself the general and the head of state. What followed was a reign of terror, plagued with rampant corruption, murder of political opponents, violent repression of other ethnic groups, and suppression of media. In 1985, he was voted the president of Liberia in what brazenly appeared to be a fraudulent election. His corrupt reign came to an end after he was captured, taken hostage, humiliated, brutally tortured, and murdered in 1990.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Samuel Kanyon Doe

Died At Age: 39


Spouse/Ex-: Nancy Doe

children: Celue Doe, Jr, Kathy Doe, Roland Doe, Samuel Kanyon Doe, Tdisho Doe Pendleton, Varney Doe, Veronica Doe

Born Country: Liberia

Presidents Black Leaders

Died on: September 9, 1990

place of death: Monrovia, Liberia

Notable Alumni: Liberian National University, University Of Liberia, Seoul National University

Grouping of People: Black Politician

Cause of Death: Assassination

Founder/Co-Founder: National Democratic Party of Liberia

More Facts

education: Seoul National University, University Of Liberia, Liberian National University

Childhood & Early Life
Samuel Kanyon Doe was born on May 6, 1951, in Tuzon, an island village in Grand Gedeh County of Liberia. He belonged to an African ethnic group known as the Krahn.
He finished elementary school at the age of 16 and then joined the 'Baptist Junior High School' in Zwedru, capital of Grand Gedeh County.
A couple of years later, expecting to earn a scholarship to attend a high school in Kakata, capital of Margibi County, Liberia, he joined the 'Armed Forces of Liberia.' However, he was assigned military responsibilities and thus could not join high school.
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He received an honorary doctorate from the 'University of Seoul,' South Korea, in 1982. This inspired him to call himself “Dr. Doe.”
In 1989, he declared that he had earned a bachelor's degree from the 'University of Liberia' in Monrovia.
Military Career
For the first 10 years in the military, he was assigned to several duty stations. He also went to military schools during this period.
He was put in charge of various garrisons and prisons in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia.
He succeeded in completing his education by correspondence.
On October 11, 1979, he was promoted to the rank of master sergeant and was also appointed as the administrator of the 'Third Battalion’ in Monrovia. He remained in this post for 11 months.
Military Coup & Its Aftermath
On April 12, 1980, Doe led a military coup and attacked the 'Liberian Executive Mansion,' killing the reigning president, William R. Tolbert, Jr. He and his men also murdered 26 followers of Tolbert during the armed struggle.
With the support of his followers, Doe declared himself the general and formed the 'People's Redemption Council.' He headed the council with 14 members reporting to him. The constitution was suspended, and Doe proclaimed himself the head of the state, with a promise that democracy would be reinstituted within 1985.
The mass executions of the officials of the former government continued during the days that immediately followed the change of regime.
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On April 22, 1980, 13 of Tolbert's supporters, including his brother, Frank Tolbert, were put on a trial before a commission appointed by the military regime. They were accused of rampant corruption, high treason, and violation of human rights.
However, the defendants were not allowed to seek legal assistance. They were denied a trial by jury and were eventually sentenced to death.
The accused were stripped naked and paraded on the major streets on Monrovia. They were later shot dead by a firing squad on the beach near the 'Barclay Training Center.'
A lot of similar demonstrations were organized, and Tolbert's loyalists were tortured and defiled by the military regime. These actions were viewed as a show of strength by Doe.
Fearing for their lives, many government officers fled Liberia. Those who were found were imprisoned.
Fifty leaders of the 'Progressive People's Party,' which was the opposition during Tolbert's presidency, were freed from prison. Immediately after this incident, 91 officials of Tolbert's government were sent to jail.
The majority of the population welcomed the new regime, as it was formed by people of native African descent, who had been, until then, excluded from participating in the government. Doe's actions brought an abrupt end to 133 years of political domination by Americo-Liberians.
Major Events During Doe's Reign
Doe was vocal about his support to the United States of America and its foreign policy in Africa at the height of the Cold War. Liberia's act of allying with the U.S.A. hampered its relationship with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (the Soviet Union), as it restricted the expansion of Soviet influence in Africa.
Doe altered the defense agreement to facilitate the use of Liberia's sea and airports by the 'U.S. Rapid Deployment Forces' on a 24-hour notice.
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Other ethnic groups, such as the Mano and the Gio (or Dan), were ill-treated. This caused disruption in the peace that existed among these ethnic groups and led to divisions and violence.
In 1983, a new constitution was drafted to form a multi-party republic, which was approved by a referendum the following year.
On July 26, 1984, Doe was chosen as the president of the 'Interim National Assembly.'
The presidential elections were held on October 15, 1985. Doe won it narrowly.
Observers from other countries declared that the elections had been heavily rigged and claimed that the runner-up, Jackson Doe, was the real winner. Reportedly, Samuel Doe had killed over 50 of his opponents. He was also accused of fudging documents for age proof, to make himself eligible for the elections. The ballot boxes had been taken to a discreet location, and 50 men loyal to him had counted the votes.
Gen. Thomas Quiwonkpa, a former ally of Doe and a member of the ethnic group Gio, attempted a coup to overthrow him on November 12, 1985, but failed. A dawn-to-dusk curfew was declared, and anyone spotted on the streets after 6 in the evening would be killed immediately. Newspapers were forcefully closed, and political activities were barred.
On January 6, 1986, Doe was formally sworn in as the president.
Civil War & Murder
Charles Taylor, a former ally of Doe, began a guerrilla war against Doe after arriving in Liberia on December 24, 1989. The conflict swiftly turned into a full-fledged civil war. Prince Y. Johnson initially supported him.
Johnson broke away from Taylor and continued his fight against Doe all by himself.
On September 9, 1990, Johnson captured Doe when he was visiting Gen. Arnold Quainoo, head of the 'Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group' ('ECOMOG’), at his office. Before taking Doe hostage, Johnson shot dead his security officers.
Doe was taken to Johnson's army base. There, he was tortured and humiliated. His ears, fingers, and toes were chopped off. He was forced to walk nude on the streets of Monrovia, and dirty water was poured over his head. He was killed after 12 hours of torture.
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