David Johnson

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Served from 1852 through 1857

David Johnson was born in Sangerfield, New York, on October 20, 1809. In 1824, he began to study law and was soon admitted to the New York Bar. By the fourth decade of the 19th century, the westward flow of pioneers included many professional people hoping to build careers on the frontier. Such was Michigan in 1838, when Johnson settled in Jackson and set up a practice which lasted almost 50 years.

He was elected to several public offices in the next few years: State School Inspector in 1839, Prosecuting Attorney in 1843, Circuit Judge of Jackson County 1846 through 1850, and State Legislator in 1845 and 1847. He was active in the fight to move the Capitol from Detroit to central Michigan, initially favoring Jackson as the site but eventually agreeing on Lansing as the final choice.

In 1851, Johnson was elected Circuit Judge, and served on the Michigan Supreme Court by virtue of this election. After an unsuccessful bid for re-election, Johnson resumed private practice with a former partner. He was later defeated in an 1864 bid for a congressional seat. A lifelong Democrat, he did not hold elective public office again.

In 1886, David Johnson died after a lingering illness caused by blood poisoning from a scratched finger. The Jackson County Bar Association, on the occasion of Johnson’s funeral, called on its members to “admire and approve the logical directness and moral power, and above all the uncompromising and aggressive honesty of his character.” (Biography compiled by Ann Lucas, Serials Librarian of Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Lansing, Michigan, 1998.)