Johnson, William

Johnson, William (1771-1834) Associate Justice of the Supreme Court: Born in Charleston, South Carolina on December 27, 1771. Johnson graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton) in 1790 with the highest honors of the class and studied law as an apprentice to the office of Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. Admitted to the bar in 1793, he was chosen to represent Charleston in the state legislatures in 1794-96 and 1796-98, the last term as Speaker of the South Carolina House. He was made a judge, then appointed an Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court in 1804. In 1808, Judge Johnson ruled that President Jefferson, whose constitutional views he generally supported, nevertheless did not have the right to refuse clearance for 5 ships in the Charleston harbor. Jefferson and Attorney-General Cesar A. Rodney argued against the decision, claiming that such an action placed the executive branch subordinate to the judicial branch. When, in the 1830's, South Carolina faced a secession crisis, Johnson was so concerned about maintaining judicial neutrality that he moved to western Pennsylvania. Johnson died on August 11, 1834, in Brooklyn, New York