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23rd Governor of
California, January 3, 1911 - March 15, 1917

Born:† September 2, 1866, in Sacramento, California

Died:† August 6, 1945, in Bethesda, Maryland

Marriage:† Minnie L. McNeal (1887), 2 sons


Hiram Johnson was the third California governor to be born in California. He was the first governor since John Bigler (1853) to be elected to a second term. An aggressive and ambitious politician, Johnson served the state for six years as governor and 28 years as U.S. senator.


Early Life

Hiram was born in Sacramento where he attended elementary and high school. He spent several years at the University of California at Berkeley and worked as a shorthand reporter before following his father in studying law. Hiramís father, Grove L. Johnson, was also active in politics, serving as a state assemblyman. From 1888-96 Hiram joined his father and brother in a law office in Sacramento.



When Hiram began disagreeing with his father on political issues, he left the law partnership. He was opposed to the Southern Pacific railroad monopoly that supported his father for political office. In 1902 Hiram moved to San Francisco and established his own law practice. There he became well known when he served as prosecuting attorney in a much-publicized city graft trial that led to the conviction of labor leader Abe Ruef. In 1910 the direct primary election was used for the first time to select the candidates, thus limiting the power of the railroad ďmachineĒ to control the election. Johnsonís campaign for governor was based on opposition to the railroad power.



Hiram Johnsonís two terms as governor were marked by sweeping legislative changes that restructured and revitalized the California government. He was the first governor in U.S. history to submit to the legislature a comprehensive annual budget. Midway in his second term, Johnson was elected to the U.S. Senate and left the governorís position when President Wilson called the U.S. Congress into special session in March 1917.


Later Years

Johnson spent 28 years in the U.S. Senate, becoming a leader on the side of isolationism. He opposed U.S. involvement in the League of Nations and the United Nations, and fought to restrict Japanese immigration. He paid little attention during these years to local politics in his home state. Johnson was 79 years old when he died at Bethesda Naval Hospital in Maryland.


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