Back to former Georgia governors
Herschel Vespasian Johnson

Gov. Herschel Vespasian Johnson

  • November 9, 1853 - November 6, 1857
  • Democratic
  • September 18, 1812
  • August 16, 1880
  • Florida
  • University of Georgia
  • Married Ann Polk Walker
  • Senator


HERSCHEL VESPARIAN JOHNSON, Georgia’s 26th Governor, was born in Burke County, Georgia, on September 18, 1812. He graduated from the University of Georgia in 1834, studied law, was admitted to the bar, and established a legal career in Augusta and Louisville. Johnson entered politics in 1841 as a delegate to the Georgia Democratic Convention. He served as an 1844 Democratic presidential elector, and he was a member of the U.S. Senate, filling a vacancy from 1848 to 1849. He also served as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 1848, 1852, and 1856, was a Democratic presidential elector in 1852, and served on the bench of the Ocmulgee Superior Court Circuit from 1849 to 1853. Johnson was elected Governor of Georgia on October 7, 1853, and was reelected to a second term in 1855. During his tenure, he supported public education, states’ rights, and unionism. He endorsed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, but disapproved of the coercion that was used by both sides in the slavery issue. After finishing his term on November 6, 1857, Johnson ran unsuccessfully for the vice presidency on the 1860 Douglas ticket. He served as a delegate to the 1861 Georgia Secession Convention, was a member of the Confederate Senate from 1862 to 1865, and served as president of the 1865 Georgia Constitutional Convention. In 1866, Johnson was elected to the U.S. Senate, but was unable to serve under the Reconstruction Acts of congress. He served on the bench of the Georgia Middle Circuit from 1873 until August 16, 1880, when he passed away. Governor Herschel V. Johnson is buried in the Old Louisville Cemetery.


Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

Virtual American Biographies


Governors’ Portraits

Recent Georgia Governors