Thomas Johnson, Governor, Assoc. Justice, US Sup. Ct.

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Thomas Johnson

Birthdate: (86)
Birthplace: St. Leonard's Creek, Calvert, Maryland, United States
Death: October 26, 1819 (86)
Rose Hill, Frederick, Maryland, United States
Place of Burial: Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Frederick, Maryland, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Thomas Johnson and Dorcas Johnson
Husband of Ann Johnson
Father of Ann Grahame; Thomas Jennings Johnson; Rebecca Johnson; Elizabeth Johnson; James Johnson and 2 others
Brother of Benjamin Johnson; Mary Johnson; Rebecca Johnson; Dorcas Johnson; James Johnson and 9 others

Managed by: Karen Marie Nystrom
Last Updated:

About Thomas Johnson, Governor, Assoc. Justice, US Sup. Ct.

DAR Ancestor #: A063746

JOHNSON, Thomas, a Delegate from Maryland; born near the mouth of St. Leonards Creek, Calvert County, Md., November 4, 1732; at an early age moved to Annapolis, Md.; studied law; was admitted to the bar; entered the provincial assembly as a delegate from Anne Arundel County in 1762; member of the committee of correspondence and of the council of safety; assisted in organizing the Potomac Co. for improving the navigation of the Potomac River; a member of the Annapolis Convention of June 1774; Member of the Continental Congress 1774-1776; nominated George Washington as commander in chief of the American forces June 15, 1775; delegate to the first constitutional convention of Maryland in 1776; served in the Revolutionary War as senior brigadier general of Maryland Militia; first Governor of Maryland 1777-1779; moved to Frederick County, Md.; member of the Maryland house of delegates in 1780, 1786, and 1787; member of the Maryland convention for ratification of the Federal Constitution in 1788; chief judge of the general court of Maryland in 1790 and 1791; appointed by President Washington the first United States judge for the district of Maryland in September 1789 but declined; appointed Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1791 to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of John Rutledge and served until February 1793, when he resigned on account of ill health; declined a Cabinet portfolio of Secretary of State tendered by President Washington August 24, 1795; appointed by President John Adams chief judge of the Territory of Columbia February 28, 1801; member of the Board of Commissioners of the Federal City; died at “Rose Hill,” Frederick, Md., October 26, 1819; interment in All Saints’ Episcopal Churchyard; reinterment in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Frederick, Md.

Thomas Johnson (November 4, 1732 – October 26, 1819) was an American jurist with a distinguished political career. He was the first Governor of Maryland, a delegate to the Continental Congress and an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.


Johnson was born in Calvert County, Maryland, on November 4, the son of Thomas and Dorcas Sedgwick Johnson. His grandfather, also named Thomas, was a lawyer in London who emigrated to Maryland sometime before 1700. He was the fourth of ten children, some of whom also had large families. (His brother Joshua's daughter Louisa Johnson married John Quincy Adams.)

The family, including Thomas, were educated at home. The young man was attracted to the law, studied it, and was admitted to the Maryland bar in 1753. By 1760, he had moved his practice to Frederick County, Maryland. He was also elected for the first time to the provincial assembly in 1761. This Thomas Johnson married Ann Jennings, the daughter of an Annapolis judge on February 16, 1766.

The couple had eight children: Thomas Jennings, Ann Jennings, Rebecca (who died in infancy), Elizabeth, Rebecca Jennings, James, Joshua, and Dorcas.

Revolutionary years

In 1774 and 1775 the Maryland assembly sent him as a delegate to the Continental Congress. In the Congress he was firmly in the camp of those who favored separation from Great Britain. In 1775, Congress created a committee of Secret Correspondence that was to seek foreign support for the war. Thomas Johnson was a committeeman along with Benjamin Franklin, John Dickinson, Benjamin Harrison and John Jay.

He returned to Maryland and continued his work in the Assembly so he missed the chance to join in the United States Declaration of Independence. But in 1775 he did draft a declaration of rights adopted by the Maryland assembly. The declaration was later included as the first part of the state's first constitution, which was adopted for Maryland by the state's constitutional convention at Annapolis in 1776. He also began his service as brigadier general in the Maryland militia. In addition to his political activities, he and his brother Roger supported the revolution by manufacturing ammunition. The remains of their factory, Catoctin Furnace, is located just north of Frederick, Maryland.

As Maryland began to exercise its newly declared autonomy, the state legislature elected Thomas as the state's first Governor in 1777. He served in that capacity until 1779. In the 1780s he held a number of judicial posts in Maryland, and served in the assembly in 1780, 1786, and 1787. In 1785 he was one of the commissioners from Maryland and Virginia that met at Mount Vernon to agree on jurisdiction and navigation rules for the Potomac River. He attended the Maryland Convention in 1788, where he successfully urged the ratification of the United States Constitution.

Federal years

In September 1789, President George Washington nominated Johnson to be the first federal judge for the District of Maryland, but he declined the appointment. In 1790 and 1791, Johnson was the senior justice in the Maryland General Court system. In January 1791, President Washington appointed him, with David Stuart and Daniel Carroll, to the commission that would lay out the federal capital in accordance with the Residence Act of 1790. Among other contributions, in September 1791 the commissioners named the federal city "The City of Washington" and the federal district "The Territory of Columbia".

On August 5, 1791, Johnson received a recess appointment from Washington to the seat on the U.S. Supreme Court that became available after John Rutledge resigned. Formally nominated on October 31, 1791, Johnson was confirmed by the United States Senate on November 7, 1791, and received his commission that day. Johnson was the author of the Court's first written opinion, Georgia v. Brailsford, in 1792. He served on the court until January 16, 1793, when he resigned due to the difficulties of circuit-riding with his poor health, giving him the shortest tenure (to date) on the Court. His health also made him decline Washington's 1795 offer to make him Secretary of State, an office for which Thomas Jefferson had recommended him. On February 28, 1801, President John Adams named him chief judge for the District of Columbia.

Later life

His daughter Ann had married John Colin Grahame in 1788, and in his later years he lived with them in a home they had built in Frederick, Maryland. The home, called Rose Hill Manor, is now a county park, and is open to the public (a high school with his namesake is on half of the Rose Hill property). Thomas was in very poor health for many years. He did deliver a eulogy for his friend George Washington at a birthday memorial service on February 22, 1800. He died at Rose Hill on October 26, 1819, and He was originally buried in All Saints churchyard. His remains were removed and reinterred at Mount Olivet Cemetery 515 South Market Street in Frederick.

Monuments and memorials

More than one school is named after Thomas Johnson, e.g., Governor Thomas Johnson High School in Frederick, Maryland, Governor Thomas Johnson Middle School in Frederick, Maryland, Thomas Johnson Middle School in Lanham, Maryland and Thomas Johnson Elementary School in Baltimore, Maryland.

In 1978, the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge was opened to traffic after being named for Johnson. The bridge crosses the Patuxent River and connects Calvert County, Maryland with St. Mary's County, Maryland.


Thomas Johnson (1732-1819) MSA SC 3520-743 Governor of Maryland, 1777-1779 (Federalist)

Biographical Profile- Born: November 4, 1732 near St. Leonard's Creek, Calvert County1 Father: Thomas Johnson2 Mother: Dorcas (Sedgwick) Johnson3 Education: attended public schools; studied law with Stephen Bordley4 Religious Affiliation: Anglican5 Marriage: February 16, 1766 to Ann Jennings6 Children: Thomas Jennings, James, Joshua, Anne Jennings, Elizabeth, Rebecca, Dorcas7 Military Service:

           Senior Brigadier General, Maryland Militia, 1776-1777 
           Leader of the Maryland troops sent to help General Washington retreat through New Jersey8 


           Clerk of indictments, Frederick County, appointed 1760, Anne Arundel County, 1761 
           Lower House, Anne Arundel County, 1762-1774, Frederick County, 1780-1781, 1786-1788 
           Committee of Correspondence, Anne Arundel County, 1774 
           Delegate, Continental Congress, 1774-1776 
           First Council of Safety, Western Shore, 1775 
           Conventions, Anne Arundel County, 1774-1776, Caroline County, 1776 
           Governor of Maryland, 1777-1779 
           Maryland Senate elector, Frederick County, 1786 
           Judge, Court of Appeals for Tax Assessments, Frederick County, 1786 
           Delegate, Constitution Ratification Convention, Frederick County, 1788 
           Director, Potomac Company, president, 1789 
           Chief Judge, General Court, 1790-1791 
           Member, Board of Commissioners, District of Columbia, 1791-1794 
           Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court, 1791-1793 (resigned) 
           Justice, Orphans' Court, Frederick County, 17999 

Died: October 26, 1819 at "Rose Hill," near Frederick Town, Frederick County10 Buried: All Saints' Parish Cemetery, Frederick Town11


Thomas Johnson's Obituary from the Maryland Gazette

from Marriages and Deaths from the Maryland Gazette, by Robert Barnes Johnson, Thomas, died on Tuesday morning, 26th ult., at Rose Hill, the seat of John Grahame, near the close of his 87th year, a venerable patriot, and a native of Calvert County. For the last 40 years he was a resident of Frederick County. He was the first Governor of the State after the Declaration of Independence. His body was interred in the family burial vault, in the Episcopal burial ground of Frederick. Nov. 18, 1819

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Thomas Johnson, Governor, Assoc. Justice, US Sup. Ct.'s Timeline

November 4, 1732
Calvert, Maryland, United States
Age 46
October 26, 1819
Age 86
Rose Hill, Frederick, Maryland, United States
Age 86
Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Frederick, Maryland, United States