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Born in Louisa County, Virginia, Johnson was educated in York County, but moved with his family to Chester District in 1789. He studied law in South Carolina and became a solicitor of the Union District in 1812 as well as being elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives. Excelling in law, Johnson was made a circuit judge in 1815, a judge of the Court of Appeals in 1824, a presiding judge of the Court of Appeals in 1830 and a chancellor in 1835. During his time on the bench, Johnson was a noted Unionist because of his decision to strike down a militia oath to South Carolina and his view that a violation of a law of the United States was a violation of the law of South Carolina. Ironically a son-in-law was Confederate General John A. Wharton.
The General Assembly elected Johnson as Governor of South Carolina in 1846 for a two-year term. The Mexican–American War occurred during his administration and the state aptly supported the cause. Much discussed was the Wilmot Proviso which would have outlawed slavery in the territory acquired from Mexico as a result of the war and it helped to further push the state towards the brink of secession. A Unionist would not become Governor of South Carolina again until the end of the Civil War when Benjamin Franklin Perry was appointed by President Andrew Johnson.
William Aiken, Jr.
|Governor of South Carolina|
1846 – 1848
Whitemarsh Benjamin Seabrook