William Johnson

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William Johnson

Birthplace: Charleston, Charleston County, South Carolina, USA, Charleston, Charleston County, South Carolina, United States
Death: August 24, 1834 (62)
New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA, New York, New York, United States (Died following surgery on his jaw)
Place of Burial: Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, United States
Immediate Family:

Child of Capt. William Johnson and Sarah Johnson
Spouse of Sarah Bennett
Parent of William Henry Johnson; Anna Hayes Saunders; Margaret Bennett Johnson; Thomas Bennett Johnson; Thomas Nightingale Johnson and 1 other
Sibling of Dr. Joseph Johnson; Benjamin Browne Johnson; Jane Johnson and Isaac Amory McCrady

Occupation: Justice of The US Supreme Court, Judge
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About William Johnson

[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Johnson_(judge)] Supreme Court Justice, William Johnson (December 17 or December 27, 1771 - August 4, 1834) was a state legislator and judge in South Carolina, and an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court from 1804 to his death in 1834.

Youth and early career

Johnson was born in Charleston. His father, William Johnson, was a revolutionary and represented Charleston in the general assembly of South Carolina. The elder Johnson was deported by Sir Henry Clinton to St. Augustine with other distinguished patriots of South Carolina. His mother, Sarah Johnson, née Nightingale, was also a revolutionary. "During the siege of Charleston, [she quilted] her petticoats with cartridges, which she thus conveyed to her husband in the trenches." The younger Johnson studied law at Princeton and graduated with an A.B. in 1790. He read law in the office of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney before passing the bar in 1793. In 1794, he married Sarah Bennett. They had at least one child, Anna Hayes Johnson, who was the second wife of Romulus Mitchell Saunders and mother of Jane Claudia Saunders Johnson (wife of General Bradley Tyler Johnson, Confederate Civil War General from Maryland.)

Work as a legislator

Johnson followed in his father's footsteps, representing the city of Charleston (and the nascent Democratic-Republican Party) in the state's house of representatives from 1794-1798. In 1796, he was selected as the speaker of the statehouse. In 1798, the formation of the state's highest court created a demand for judges, and Johnson was one of those selected to the position.

Appointment to the Court

Johnson was nominated to be an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court by Thomas Jefferson on March 22, 1804, as the successor of Alfred Moore. He was confirmed by the United States Senate on March 24, 1804, and received his commission on March 26, 1804. He was the first of Jefferson's three appointments to the court and is considered to have been selected for sharing many of Jefferson's beliefs about the Constitution. Johnson was the first member of the U.S. Supreme Court that was not a member of the Federalist Party.

Independent judicial mind

In his years on the Court, Johnson proved to be a very independent mind - while the Chief Justice, John Marshall, was able to steer the opinions of most of the justices in most cases, Johnson developed a reputation for dissent. Johnson's independence was further displayed in 1808 when he defied the orders of the collector of the port of Charleston, the United States Attorney General Caesar A. Rodney, and President Thomas Jefferson (the very man who had nominated Johnson to his position), because he felt that the executive branch's control of maritime trade was an overextension of its constitutional powers. Much later in his service on the court, during the Nullification Crisis in South Carolina from 1831–1833, Johnson again displayed his desire for independent thought by moving away from his residence in South Carolina, so as not to be swayed by the intensity of public opinion there.

Johnson died in 1834 in New York after surgery on his jaw.


Vol. 1, No. 1 (Jan. 1900), pp. 3-12 (10 pages) Published by: South Carolina Historical Society

United States Supreme Court Associate Justice. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, he studied law at Princeton, where he graduated in 1790 and was admitted to the bar in 1793. He was a state legislator and a judge in South Carolina, when nominated for the position of Associate Justice by President Thomas Jefferson on March 22, 1804. Johnson was the first of Jefferson's appointments to the Supreme Court and was thought to have the most similar beliefs about the Constitution. As a Justice, Johnson was a very independent mind and was noted for many landmark Supreme Court decisions of the time. He served in office until his death at age 62 in New York City.* Reference: Find A Grave Memorial - SmartCopy: Jun 20 2020, 6:56:53 UTC

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William Johnson's Timeline

December 27, 1771
Charleston, Charleston County, South Carolina, United States
Charleston, Dorchester, South Carolina, USA
South Carolina, USA
South Carolina
August 24, 1834
Age 62
New York, New York, United States
Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, United States