John Albert Johnson

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John Albert Johnson
16th Governor of Minnesota
In office
January 4, 1905 – September 21, 1909
LieutenantRay W. Jones
Adolph Olson Eberhart
Preceded bySamuel Rinnah Van Sant
Succeeded byAdolph Olson Eberhart
Personal details
Born(1861-07-28)July 28, 1861
St. Peter, Minnesota
DiedSeptember 21, 1909(1909-09-21) (aged 48)
Rochester, Minnesota
Political partyDemocratic
Elinore "Nora" Preston
(m. 1894)

John Albert Johnson (July 28, 1861 – September 21, 1909) was an American politician. He served in the Minnesota State Senate from January 1897 to January 1901. He was the 16th governor of Minnesota from January 4, 1905, until his death on September 21, 1909 as a member of the Democratic Party.

Johnson was the first Minnesota governor born in Minnesota. He was only the second non-Republican governor in 45 years and the third since statehood. He was also first to serve a full term in the present state capitol, and the first to die in office. Johnson sought the 1908 Democratic presidential nomination but lost to William Jennings Bryan.


Governor Johnson re-election mailing card

John Albert Johnson was born on a farm near St. Peter, Minnesota, on July 28, 1861,[1] the eldest child of Gustaf and Caroline Johnson. After Gustaf abandoned his family, John left school at 13 to support his mother and siblings. During this time, he worked at a local drugstore. After that, he had a seven-year-long stint in the Minnesota National guard, where he reached the rank of captain. Local Democrats, impressed with the enterprising young store clerk, asked him to join their party and edit the strongly Democratic St. Peter Herald. Before he could take the position, he became seriously ill with typhoid fever, but he recovered.[2] His journalistic success attracted statewide attention and fostered political aspirations.

Johnson married Elinor M. Preston on June 1, 1894, at the Union Presbyterian Church in St. Peter.[1]

Johnson failed in early campaigns for state office from his heavily Republican home county but was elected to the state senate in 1898, indicating his growing bipartisan appeal.


In his 1904 inauguration speech, Johnson called for the two-year term to be extended to four years, more funding for roads, more funding to rural schools, and several other important ideas. Johnson's ability to reason and work with legislators of both parties resulted in such reform legislation as a reorganization of the state's insurance department to the benefit of policyholders, reduction of railroad passenger and freight rates, and removal of constitutional restraints on the legislature's power to tax.

Johnson was reelected in 1906 and 1908. He began his third term with reservations. At that point, he had had over four surgeries for his intestinal problems, and he wanted to pursue a promising sideline as a public orator. This chronic illness forced him to head to the Mayo Clinic once again on September 13, 1909. When he died suddenly at age 48 from post-operative complications, which included an infection, the state's citizens were grief-stricken.


Governor Johnson's funeral train leaving Rochester, Minnesota

Johnson was the first of three governors to die in office. Governor Winfield Scott Hammond was the second, after suffering a stroke in 1915. Floyd B. Olson was the third and most recent, dying of cancer in 1936.

Statues of Johnson are on the steps of the Minnesota State Capitol and the grounds of the Nicollet County Courthouse. Johnson Senior High School in St. Paul is named for him, as is the portion of U.S. Route 169 from Saint Peter to the Twin Cities.

The John A. Johnson School in Virginia, Minnesota was built in 1907.


  1. ^ a b The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography. Vol. XIV. James T. White & Company. 1910. pp. 164–165. Retrieved December 15, 2020 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ Schmahl, Julius. Legislative Manual Minnesota 1909. Harrison & Smith Company. p. 662.

External links[edit]

Party political offices
Preceded by
Leonard A. Rosing
Democratic nominee for Governor of Minnesota
1904, 1906, 1908
Succeeded by
James Gray
Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Minnesota
1905 – 1909
Succeeded by