Hiram Johnson

Hiram Johnson

Infobox Governor
name = Hiram Johnson

jr/sr = United States Senator
state = California
term_start = March 16, 1917
term_end = August 6, 1945
predecessor = John D. Works
successor = William F. Knowland
order2 = 23rd
office2 = Governor of California
term_start2 = January 3, 1911
term_end2 = March 15, 1917
lieutenant2 = A. J. Wallace
John Morton Eshleman
William Dennison Stephens (1916-1917)
predecessor2 = James Gillett
successor2 = William Stephens
birth_date = birth date|1866|9|2
birth_place = Sacramento, California
death_date = death date and age|1945|8|6|1866|9|2
death_place = Bethesda, Maryland
spouse = Minne L. McNeal
profession = Politician
party = Progressive, Republican
religion = Episcopalian
footnotes =

Hiram Warren Johnson (September 2, 1866ndash August 6, 1945) was a leading American progressive and later isolationist politician from California; he served as Governor from 1911 to 1917, and as a United States Senator from 1917 to 1945.


Early life

Johnson was born in Sacramento, California; his father was Grove Lawrence Johnson, a Republican Representative and a member of the California State Legislature famous for his support of personal interests. His mother was Annie DeMontfredy, descendant of a family of Huguenots who had left France to escape religious persecution there. Annie was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, claiming descent from a general of the Continental Army. Johnson had a brother and three sisters. [ [http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~npmelton/sfbjohn2.htm Lewis Francis Byington, “History of San Francisco 3 Vols” (1931), Vol. 2, pages 347-350. ] ]

After attending public schools, Johnson first worked as a shorthand reporter and stenographer in law offices. He eventually decided on a legal career, studying at the University of California, Berkeley, where he was a member of the Chi Phi Fraternity. He was admitted to the bar in 1888 and commenced practice in his hometown. In 1902 he moved to San Francisco. He served as assistant district attorney and became active in reform politics, taking up an anti-corruption mantle. He attracted statewide attention in 1908 when he assisted Francis J. Heney in the graft prosecution of Abe Ruef and Mayor Eugene Schmitz, his success due in large measure to the fact that after Heney had been gunned down in the courtroom, he took the lead for the prosecution and won the case. He married Minne L. McNeal; the couple had two sons.


In 1910 Johnson won the gubernatorial election as a member of the Lincoln-Roosevelt League, a liberal Republican movement running on an anti-Southern Pacific Railroad platform. He toured the state in an open automobile. In office, Johnson was a populist who implemented many important reforms. Among them was the popular election of U.S. Senators, which stripped away the sole franchise of the California State Legislature to vote for federal Senators. Johnson's administration also pushed for women's suffrage and the ability of candidates to register in more than one political party, a reform that he believed would cripple the influence of what he viewed as a monolithic political establishment. In 1911, Johnson and the Progressives added initiative, referendum, and recall to the state government, giving California a degree of direct democracy unmatched by any other U.S. state.

Johnson supported the California Alien Land Law of 1913.

Nationally, Johnson was a founder of the Progressive Party in 1912. That same year, he was the party's vice presidential candidate, sharing a ticket with former President Theodore Roosevelt; his selection helped Roosevelt to carry California by 0.2 percent of the votes. The Progressives finished second nationally (ahead of the incumbent Republican, President William Howard Taft) but still lost the election to the Democrats and their candidate, Woodrow Wilson.


Johnson was re-elected governor in 1914 and in 1916 ran successfully for the U.S. Senate, taking office on March 16, 1917. It was this year that he spoke the words that he is best remembered for today: "the first casualty when war comes, is truth", referring to the United States's entry into World War I.

Presidential Bid

Following Roosevelt's death in January 1919, Johnson was regarded as the natural leader of the Progressive Party. In 1920, however, he did not attempt to revive the Progressive Party, but ran for President as a Republican. He was defeated for the Republican presidential nomination by Warren Harding. He received ten votes for the nomination against Calvin Coolidge in 1924. As a senator, Johnson proved extremely popular. In 1934, he was re-elected with 94.5 percent of the popular vote.

During the early presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, Johnson supported the president's economic recovery package, the New Deal, frequently crossing the floor to aid the Democrats and even backing FDR in the 1932 and 1936 presidential elections, although he never switched party affiliation. He became disenchanted with Roosevelt and the New Deal following FDR's unsuccessful attempt to increase the size of the Supreme Court. As a staunch isolationist (he was the only senator to vote against both the League of Nations and the United Nations), Johnson was much less supportive of Roosevelt on foreign policy than domestic policy. He achieved senate seniority as Chairman of the Committee on Cuban Relations in the Sixty-sixth Congress; he was also a member of the Patents, Immigration, Territories and Insular Possessions and Commerce Committees.


Having served in the Senate for almost thirty years, Johnson died in the Naval Hospital Bethesda, Maryland, on August 6, 1945. News of his death, however, was overshadowed by the nuclear bomb attack on Hiroshima, Japan, which occurred that same day. He was interred in Cypress Lawn Memorial Park in Colma, California.

Johnson gained some recognition in the media and general public during the 2003 California recall election because he was the most important person behind the introduction of the law that allowed state officials to be recalled. Also, then-gubernatorial candidate Arnold Schwarzenegger referred to Johnson's progressive legacy in his campaign speeches.


External links

*CongBio|J000140|name=JOHNSON, Hiram Warren|inline=1
* [http://www.sabee.com/static/archive/news/projects/people_of_century/century_special/johnson.html Historical archive] of the Sacramento, California newspaper "The Sacramento Bee"
* [http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=5306 Hiram Johnson at Find-A-Grave]

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