Johnson, Hiram Warren

   Hiram Johnson qualified in law in 1888 and practiced in Sacramento and San Francisco, California. He established himself in cases against political corruption in San Francisco and was elected as a Republican to the state legislature in 1877, to the U.S. Congress in 1894, and as governor of California in 1910. Johnson initiated a program of reform, including railroad and public utility regulation; the initiative, referendum and recall; workmen’s compensation and child labor laws; the eight-hour work day for women; and state commissions on industrial welfare, industrial accidents, immigration, and housing. In 1912, he was Theodore Roosevelt’s running mate for the unsuccessful Progressive Party, and he returned as governor of California in 1914. He was elected U.S. senator for the state in 1916 as a Republican and progressive. Johnson supported the declaration of war on Germany in 1917 but took a prominent part as one of the “irreconcilables” in opposing the League of Nations in any form. In 1920, he became a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination but lost to Warren Harding. He declined the vice presidential nomination, failed to gain the Republican presidential nomination in 1924, and continued to serve as a U.S. senator until his death.
   Johnson’s biggest achievement as senator was to see through the approval for the construction of the Boulder Dam, later renamed the Hoover Dam in 1928. In 1932, he declared his support for Franklin D. Roosevelt and actively campaigned on his behalf. He subsequently declined the offer to become secretary of the interior but continued to support most New Deal measures until 1937. In 1934, Johnson won both the Republican and Democratic nominations for reelection. He maintained his opposition to U.S. foreign involvements and during the 1930s supported the neutrality acts. Johnson was reelected again in 1940 but then supported Republican Wendell Willkie’s presidential campaign. In 1941, he led the unsuccessful opposition to Roosevelt’s Lend-Lease measures. Ill health limited his further participation in the Senate, but in 1945 Johnson voted against the United Nations Charter. Johnson’s long political character charted the path followed by many progressives in the first half of the 20th century.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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