Born near Evansville, Indiana, HENRY SIMPSON JOHNSTON moved with his family to Kansas at a young age. He studied at Baker University and Methodist College in Kansas but relocated to Colorado in 1891, where he was admitted to the Colorado Bar. Two years later he moved again, this time to Perry, in Oklahoma Territory. He was a member of the Oklahoma Territorial Council from 1897 to 1904, Noble County Attorney from 1901 to 1904, a member of the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention of 1906, a state Senator from 1907 to 1908 (serving as President Pro Tempore), and a delegate to the Democratic National Convention of 1912. As governor, Johnston clashed with the state legislature over a number of issues, including the State Highway Commission’s membership, and when state lawmakers sought—in violation of a ruling by the state Supreme Court—to convene a special session to investigate the governor’s office, Johnston declared martial law. In response, members of the legislature voted to impeach Johnston, but concern over the legality of the action resulted in a split between the Senate and the House, averting a conviction. When Republicans swept 1928 elections in Oklahoma, Johnston was blamed and the legislature once again brought impeachment charges again him. This time, he was convicted and removed from office. He went on to win election to the Oklahoma Senate, where he served from 1932 until 1936, following which he returned to the practice of law.
Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 3. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.