Johnson, Louis Arthur, 1891-1966Variant names
Louis Arthur Johnson (January 10, 1891 – April 24, 1966) was an American politician and attorney who served as the second United States Secretary of Defense from 1949 to 1950. He was the Assistant Secretary of War from 1937 to 1940 and the 15th national commander of the American Legion from 1932 to 1933.
Born in Roanoke, Virginia, Johnson earned a law degree from the University of Virginia. After graduation he practiced law in Clarksburg, West Virginia; his firm, Steptoe and Johnson, eventually opened offices in Charleston, West Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1916, he served as majority floor leader and chairman of the Judiciary Committee.In World War I, Johnson saw action as an Army officer in France. After the war ended, he resumed his law practice and was active in veterans' affairs, helping to found the American Legion and serving as its national commander in 1932–33. As assistant secretary of war between 1937 and 1940, Johnson advocated universal military training, rearmament, and expansion of military aviation. He practiced law from 1940 to 1949, except for several months in 1942 when he served as the president's personal representative in India.
In 1949, President Harry S. Truman chose Johnson to succeed James Forrestal as United States Secretary of Defense. During 1948, Johnson had acted as chief fund-raiser for President Truman's election campaign. There were allegations that his appointment was a political payoff, but his experience in veterans' affairs and as assistant secretary of war strengthened his credentials. Johnson entered office sharing the president's commitment to achieve further military unification and to control costs while maintaining adequate defense forces.
Johnson was considered controversial as secretary of defense. Thought to be a purely political appointee by some, trying to follow in the footsteps of a highly respected predecessor, Johnson became embroiled in debate and contention almost immediately. When Johnson halted continuation of work on the Navy’s USS United States aircraft carrier trying to cut military spending and allowed the Air Force to utilize their newest strategic bomber the B-36, a bitter disagreement between the Navy and the Air Force resulted in the so-called "Revolt of the Admirals." After a House Armed Services Committee investigation, Johnson’s reputation was mostly intact, but he had a weakened position with the president and the military services. Inter-service quarrelling continued to be an issue and it damaged his potential for achieving his original goals of military unification. Additionally, conflict with the State Department and the Department of Defense through disagreements between Johnson and Secretary of State Dean Acheson and having receiving some of the blame for setbacks in Korea contributed to Johnson’s time in office being cut short. At the time of his appointment Johnson met the president's needs; by September 1950, with the Korean conflict in full swing, he had become a liability. In his last speech as secretary of defense the day before he left office, Johnson observed: "When the hurly burly's done and the battle is won I trust the historian will find my record of performance creditable, my services honest and faithful commensurate with the trust that was placed in me and in the best interests of peace and our national defense."Johnson returned to his law practice, which he pursued until his death in Washington at the age of 75 on 24 April 1966. Even though his time as secretary of defense was turbulent, after his death, he was still recognized officially for his service to his country. As a mark of respect to his memory, the National Flag was ordered to be displayed at half-staff on all installations under the control of the Department of the Army from the day of death, until retreat on the day of interment, 26 April 1966.
|Washington, D. C.
|American Legion. National Convention
|Korean War, 1950-1953
|World War, 1939-1945
|World War, 1939-1945
|Secretary of War