Johnson, Hiram, 1866-1945

Alternative names
Birth 1866
Death 1945

Biographical notes:

Hiram Johnson was the governor of California, 1911-1917, a United States Senator from California, 1917-1945, and a leader in the Progressive Party.

From the description of Hiram Johnson papers, 1895-1945. (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 82192663

Hiram Johnson served as governor of Calif. (1911-1917), Progressive candidate for Vice President of the U.S. (1912), and U.S. Senator from Calif. (1917-1945).

From the description of Hiram Johnson letters : to Edward M. Norton : TLS, 1912-1928. (California Historical Society). WorldCat record id: 122509083


Hiram Warren Johnson was born in Sacramento, September 2, 1866, the son of Grove and Annie (De Montfredy) Johnson. He was educated in the Sacramento public schools and attended the University of California at Berkeley. He left in 1886, in his junior year, to marry Minnie L. McNeal. He studied law in his father's law office, was admitted to the bar in 1888, and practiced in Sacramento. In 1894 he and his brother, Albert, managed their father's first congressional campaign. However, they opposed him in his bid for re-election and backed a reform group. The political rivalry estranged father and sons for many years.

In 1902 Johnson went to San Francisco to practice law. In 1908 he was selected to take the place of Francis Heney, after the latter was shot during the prosecution of the graft trials, and secured a conviction against Abraham Reuf for bribery. At this time Johnson came to the attention of the state reform element and enhanced his anti-machine reputation by his dynamic speeches before the Lincoln-Roosevelt Republican League.

By 1910 he was the acknowledged leader of the progressive movement in the state, and in November he was elected Governor. In 1912, he led the California delegation to the Republican convention in Chicago, and, with Theodore Roosevelt and other Progressives, bolted the convention after the renomination of President William H. Taft. Johnson then became the vice-presidential nominee of the newly formed Progressive Party. In 1914, he was re-elected Governor and in November 1916, he was elected to the U.S. Senate. On March 17, 1917, he resigned his state office and went to Washington.

Johnson served as a U.S. Senator from California for five terms, 1917-1945. During this time he maintained his image as a progressive reformer by his sponsorship of the Boulder Dam project, through investigations into the labor conditions in the West Virginia coal mines, by his attack on the power of private utilities, and through his strong support of the public works projects in the New Deal era. In the field of foreign relations, Johnson's stands were always highlighted by a vigorous nationalistic spirit, and he was popularly termed an "isolationist".

The coming of World War II brought Johnson into a headlong clash with Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal. The disintegration of American neutrality alarmed Johnson and led him into a bitter losing battle from which he never recovered. Once the war began he gave it full support, but his failing health kept him more and more from the active business of the Senate. He died in Bethesda Naval Hospital on August 6, 1945.

From the guide to the Hiram Johnson Papers, 1895-1945, (The Bancroft Library)


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  • Japanese
  • Elections
  • Governor
  • Politicians--Correspondence
  • Legislators--Attitudes
  • Progressive Party
  • Republican Party


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  • California (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • Hoover Dam (Ariz. and Nev.) (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • California (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)