Justice William Johnson

On this date in 1834, Justice William Johnson, Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, died at age 62 in New York, NY after undergoing jaw surgery. William Johnson was born in December, 1771 in Charleston, South Carolina the son of two revolutionaries. Johnson studied law at Princeton where he graduated with an A.B. in 1790. After “reading the law” in the law office of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Johnson passed the South Carolina bar in 1793. In 1794, Johnson was elected to the South Carolina House of Representative and selected Speaker of that body in 1796. In 1798, Johnson was appointed an Associate Justice of the Court of General Sessions. On March 22, 1804, President Thomas Jefferson nominated William Johnson to the position of Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court to the seat left vacant by the resignation of Justice Alfred Moore. Justice William Johnson would serve on the Court for the next thirty years until his death in 1834. While on the Court, Justice Johnson displayed an independent jurisprudence and probably dissented the most during a tenure dominated by the jurisprudence of Chief Justice John Marshall and Justice Joseph Story. Many scholars have called him the U.S. Supreme Court’s first “Great Dissenter”.