J. Neely Johnson

John Neely Johnson ( born August 2, 1825 in Gibson County, Indiana; † August 31, 1872 in Salt Lake City, Utah) was an American lawyer and politician. Johnson was from 1856 to 1858, the fourth Governor of California from 1867 to 1871 and Judge of the Supreme Court of the State of Nevada. He was a member of the short-lived Know Nothing Party and one of the few governors of California, who managed to be elected through a third party in this office.


The young Johnson studied law, which he successfully completed in Iowa at the age of 21 years. In July 1849, he interrupted his legal career, the California gold rush and seized him. He tried with little success as a gold digger. Then he settled in Sacramento and took his legal career again. At the age of 25 years ( 1850) he was elected district attorney of the district of Sacramento. Two years later he decided to become politically active and was a candidate for the parliamentary elections in 1852 for the Democratic Party. After winning election, he then moved as MP for Sacramento in California's Parliament.

Member of Parliament

He became famous first as he was violent to a journalist who had written a negative article about him. 1854 reached the clashes between the northern and southern United States and California. His Democratic party was divided into two opposing camps, and Johnson was also so frustrated that he resigned from the party and joined the new so-called Know-Nothing Party. This party nominated him in 1855 for the upcoming gubernatorial election against the incumbent John Bigler, who sought a third term. Johnson won the next election with a clear lead. At the same time his party was the strongest force in all political bodies in the country.


On January 9, 1856 Johnson was introduced as the fourth Governor of California in his office. At age 30, he has remained the youngest when he took office governor of California. His first goal as governor was the reduction of public debt, which he had inherited from his predecessor. To this end, he wanted to cut government spending drastically. Johnson's tenure but was overshadowed by civil unrest in the city of San Francisco. There had been riots of discontented citizens against the open corruption before his term of office. To achieve this goal, the citizens had combined to form a committee. It came as a result to violence including some lynchings between the citizens and the local authorities, which at times also the governor faced powerless. The crisis was eventually resolved with the so-called Consolidation Act of 1856. This law unified the municipal authorities of the city of San Francisco with those of the adjacent district. The aim was to curb corruption. The meantime poor crisis management of the Governor in these so-called Crisis Vigilante cost him the confidence of his party and his constituents. For the next elections, he was not nominated again for the governorship. Soon after, came the end of his party, which rose more or less in the Republican Party. It is worth mentioning that was started under Governor Johnson with the plans for the Capitol in Sacramento.


After the expiration of his term of office he left California and moved to what was then Utah Territory, which was re-divided soon after. With this new division, the Nevada Territory was formed. 1861 Soon after the American Civil War broke out. Against this background, there were considerations Nevada to make a State of the Union. Johnson was elected chairman of a meeting in Carson City Convention which should provide advice on the accession of the territory of the Union. Even with Johnson's help decided this Convention Accession Nevada to the Union, which was then completed on 31 October 1864. 1867 Johnson was selected by Henry Blasdell, the governor of Nevada, was appointed Judge of the Supreme Court of the country. This office he retained until 1871.


After retiring from this office, his health deteriorated rapidly. Finally, he died on 31 August 1872 in Salt Lake City at the age of 47 years.