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Herschel Vespasian Johnson

In office
February 4, 1848 – March 3, 1849
Preceded by Walter T. Colquitt
Succeeded by William C. Dawson

In office
January 19, 1863 – May 10, 1865
Preceded by John Wood Lewis, Sr.
Succeeded by Defeat of Confederacy

Born September 18, 1812(1812-09-18)
Burke County, Georgia
Died August 16, 1880 (aged 67)
Louisville, Georgia
Political party Democratic
Alma mater University of Georgia
Profession Politician, Lawyer, Judge

Herschel Vespasian Johnson (September 18, 1812 – August 16, 1880) was an American politician. He was the governor of Georgia from 1853 to 1857 and the vice-presidential nominee of the Douglas wing of the Democratic Party in the 1860 US presidential election.


Johnson was born near Farmer's Bridge in Burke County, Georgia. In 1834, he graduated from the University of Georgia and passed his bar examination. He moved to Jefferson County in 1839 and began to practice law in Louisville, Georgia. In 1844, he moved to the state capitol, Milledgville, and continued to practice law.

Herschel V. Johnson around the time he ran for Vice President.

He unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 1843 and for Governor in 1847, and was finally appointed to fill the United States Senate seat vacated by the resignation of Walter T. Colquitt. Johnson served in the Senate from February 4, 1848 to March 3, 1849, but was not a candidate for election to the seat. He returned to Georgia and served as a circuit court judge from 1849 to 1853. In 1853, he was elected Governor of Georgia, then re-elected in 1855. After he finished his term as governor in 1857, Johnson County, Georgia was named in his honor. In 1860, when the Democratic Party refused to add the support of extending slavery to the western territories, the party split. To try to recapture some southern votes, Johnson was chosen as the northern Democrats' nominee as the running mate of presidential candidate Stephen A. Douglas.

In 1861 he served as a delegate to the state secession convention, and opposed secession from the Union. When it became clear that Georgia would secede, however, he acquiesced out of loyalty to his state and served as a Senator of the Second Confederate Congress from 1862 to the end of the war in 1865. In the Confederate Senate, he opposed conscription and the suspension of habeas corpus. After the Civil War, Johnson was a leader in the Reconstruction and was named head of the Georgia constitutional convention. Upon Georgia's readmission to the Union in 1866, he was chosen as a U.S. Senator, but was disallowed from serving due to his involvement with the rebellion. He again became a circuit court judge in 1873 and served until his death in 1880 in Louisville, Georgia.


United States Senate
Preceded by
Walter T. Colquitt
United States Senator (Class 2) from Georgia
February 4, 1848 – March 3, 1849
Served alongside: John M. Berrien
Succeeded by
William C. Dawson
Confederate States Senate
Preceded by
John W. Lewis, Sr.
Confederate States Senator from Georgia
January 19, 1863 – May 10, 1865
Served alongside: Benjamin Harvey Hill
Defeat of the Confederacy
Political offices
Preceded by
Howell Cobb
Governor of Georgia
Succeeded by
Joseph E. Brown
Party political offices
Preceded by
John C. Breckinridge
Democratic Party vice presidential candidate(1)
1860 (lost)
Succeeded by
George Hunt Pendleton
Notes and references
1. The Democratic party split in 1860, producing two vice presidential candidates.
Johnson was nominated by Northern Democrats; Joseph Lane was nominated by Southern Democrats.


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