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Thomas Johnson (jurist)

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Thomas Johnson
Thomas Johnson (governor).jpeg
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
In office
August 6, 1792[1] – January 16, 1793
Nominated byGeorge Washington
Preceded byJohn Rutledge
Succeeded byWilliam Paterson
1st Governor of Maryland
In office
March 21, 1777 – November 12, 1779
Preceded byRobert Eden (Royal)
Succeeded byThomas Lee
Personal details
Born(1732-11-04)November 4, 1732
St. Leonard, Maryland, British America
DiedOctober 26, 1819(1819-10-26) (aged 86)
Frederick, Maryland, U.S.
Political partyFederalist

Thomas Johnson (November 4, 1732 – October 26, 1819) was an 18th century American judge and politician. He participated in several ventures to support the Revolutionary War. Johnson was the first (non-Colonial) Governor of Maryland, a delegate to the Continental Congress, and an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Johnson suffered from a myriad of health issues. He was the first person appointed to the Court after its original organization and staffing with six justices. Johnson's tenure on the Supreme Court lasted only 163 days, which (excluding any current Justices) makes him the shortest-serving Justice in U.S. history.

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It is now time to introduce our keynote address. This is really the culmination of our two-day conference and our time here together. The keynote address is titled If Your Dreams Do Not Scare You: A conversation in advancing women's leadership in Africa. It is my honor to introduce our keynote speaker, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former president of Liberia. I'd like to now invite on stage Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield who will bring greeting from Secretary Albright, a friend of President Sirleaf's, as well as an alumna of here of Wellesley College, and a generous friend to Wellesley. Ambassador. - Good afternoon. Let me start by saying how wonderful it is to be here with all of you. I want to particularly thank President Johnson for inviting us, and thank all of you for giving me your time. I'm really delighted to be here with you today at this very extraordinary institution and to be part of this African Women's Leadership Conference. I have the opportunity to hear some of the young ladies in the program just before this. And I can tell you, you are extraordinarily, extraordinarily impressive. I tweet it, and I'm not a good tweeter, that one of you, one of you will be following in President Johnson Sirleaf's footsteps. I don't know which of you it will be, but we all will look forward to applauding you. I bring you greeting from Secretary Madeline Albright who had hoped to be here with all of you today. She unfortunately had a scheduling change, and I happen to work for her, and so she asked that I come to bring her greetings and her congratulation to all of you for the extraordinary work that you are doing here. She is a close friend of mine, and she is a very, very close friend, as you heard, of President Johnson Sirleaf who also is a close friend of mine. I happen to have served with her as the US Ambassador to Liberia from 2008 to 2012, and I got to see her extraordinary work. So I look forward to hearing her speak, sitting with you to applaud her, and I look forward to getting to meet all of you. Thank you very much. - Oh, it's wonderful to see all of you here this afternoon. Thank you Ambassador Thomas Greenfield for that warm introduction to our keynote this afternoon. As we reflect on the importance of the conference and the synergy of hosting this gathering of powerful women at Wellesley, your comments have brought new insight and clarity, and we are so grateful that you could take part in this conference. We know that Secretary Albright has been a force for change in the world, a champion of women and women's rights, and one of Wellesley's most beloved friends. Please help me thank Secretary Albright, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, and everyone at Wellesley's Albright Institute for Global Affairs. I wanna also take this opportunity to thank Joey Cole as well. As master of ceremonies, you've brought to the conference your dynamism, your commanding presence and professionalism, your graciousness, and we are so proud of you, Joey. Thank you. To our distinguished guest across the African continent and to hour honored guest from the Mastercard Foundation with whom we've had such a productive and meaningful partnership, to our outstanding speakers, moderators, facilitators, participants, and student volunteers, and of course to our wealthy faculty, students, and staff, welcome to the closing event for what has been truly an outstanding and very important conference. Founded on the ideals of bringing diverse women together to live and learn, and advance progress in society for nearly 150 years, Wellesley has been educating and championing women leaders. So it's our distinct privilege to have been a partner in bringing together some of the most inspiring and influential leaders from Africa. I hope that even in some small way, being in an environment that empowers women, our community of engaged women and dedicated energy, our educators has animated new ideas, introduce unseen pathways, and galvanized plans of action. And I can tell you, in listening to our Mastercard scholars downstairs debriefing, I can tell you that, that process is well underway. Before I welcome our most distinguished speaker for the conferences Culminating Kenner Keynote, I wanna first take a moment to thank Hyunja Laskin Kenner, class of 1988, and her husband Jeffrey Kenner. Hyunja, we are so grateful for your generosity and commitment to Wellesley and through the endowed fund established in 2010 that enables us to annually bring a distinguished and renowned speaker to campus. Thank you. So now, it is my great honor to welcome to Wellesley and to introduce to this remarkable gathering, her excellency, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia from 2006 to 2018, the first woman to be democratically elected to the presidency of an African nation, and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Never losing sight of principles of democracy, peace, and social and economic equity and development, President Sirleaf exemplifies visionary steadfast leadership, service, and accomplishment at the very highest level. Despite being jailed and exiled through out her life, she has been a vocal an unstoppable critic of government abuse and corruption. Her accomplishments as president were many. And in the face of inheriting a country whose services and infrastructure were deeply damaged when she took office, her extraordinary accomplishment speak for themselves. She worked tirelessly to improve the life of all Liberians, to bring stability to her country, and she navigated a Liberia through crisis and disaster, including a devastating Ebola epidemic in 2014. She opened up and began rebuilding the economy, improve the country's infrastructure and its schools, and began the restoration of the healthcare system with a focus of maternal and child health and welfare. And she transformed the lives of women in her country. She mobilized resources to educate girls and to empower adolescents. She improved the conditions for working women, and she improved the conditions for women and girls, so that they would have a voice in civil society like never before. She also appointed a woman as chief of police. And by 2016, Liberia's police force was 17% women. In September of 2017, looking back at her time as president, she told an audience at the US Institute of Peace, and I quote, "We have built a foundation for democracy, "economic development, and the rule of law." We have given a voice and hope to the market of women, the girl child, and to civil society. The next president will inherit an empowered people. African now knows what a woman president can do. Her awards are too numerous to mention. But just last month, she was the first woman to receive the Ibrahim African Leadership Prize for transformative leadership in the aftermath, in the aftermath of Liberia's civil war. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, from President George W. Bush in 2007. And of course in 2011, she accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for her non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women's rights to full participation in peace building work. In her Nobel speech in which she called on all women to find their voices, she said, and I quote, "Girls' education seem far too often "as an unnecessary indulgence, "rather than the key investment it is, "is still underfunded and understaffed. "Too often girls are discouraged from pursuing "an academic training, "no matter how promising they may be." She continued, "Each of us has her own voice, "and our goals are in harmony. "They are the pursuit of peace, the pursuit of justice. "They are the defense of rights "to which are people are entitled." Madam President, we salute you and your work to advance women's education and women's leadership. You are a woman of formidable intellect and expansive and determined vision. Your legendary resilience and perseverance have redefined and revolutionized women's leadership in Africa and across the globe, and your legacy will continue to shape the next generation of women leaders for years to come. Now, it is my privilege and honor to have her excellency, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, grace the podium and share her wisdom and her insights. Please welcome Madam President. - Thank you. President Johnson, thank you for inviting me and including me in this gathering, and thank you for the introduction. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, always a pleasure to see you. As you know, you are revert in the Liberian nation. Assistant Director Gordon, let me thank you for your excellent coordination of these events. Future leaders, honor students, all of you in this audience, let me say how pleased I am to be here. It's really, really joy to be a part of this 2018 African Women Conference. I'm pleased to have joined last night to witness the performance of Counsel Meanne, a talented comedian and an African. I also listened in the session just before this one at the responses, and the reactions, and the thoughts, and the future plans of all of those who participated in the conference, and I can say, just as you said, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, that all of those young women who spoke are on the way to a great journey. Yesterday, we all celebrated International WOmen's Day to recognize the progress and reaffirm the commitment to overcome the obstacles that lead to full equality. I am pleased that I was on this campus on this day, because I highly admire to persons who tread on this ground Secretary Madeline Albright, and Secretary Hillary Clinton. These women towers are champions in their own rights. They have fought tirelessly to advance women's political leadership, and uplifted the lives of women worldwide. I have witnessed the evolving legacy of these remarkable women leaders over many years. President Johnson, every time I say that, I remember that we all have the same name. Someone says President Johnson, I don't know which one of us he's referring to. In Liberia, we have many people who are presidents of other organizations too, and sometimes it is also Johnson. That name is common. But whenever they say that, I always say, "small P." President Johnson, observing your commitment to cultivating the next generation of women leaders at Wellesley has been truly remarkable. As you mold what will be the next Albright and the next Clinton. Bare with me as I take you on a journey, my journey, a journey of failure and success, a journey of tragedy and triumph. As we all reflect upon my arduous journey towards leadership in the hope of bringing you along the path that has led to my life's work and proudest accomplishments. I will share insights into my dreams which I nurtured along the way, and the dreams that threatened to push me beyond my limits. Ultimately, I hope to encourage and challenge you, each and every one of you, to train beyond your own limits. As you know, I retired from the Presidency of Liberia in January of this year, and handed over the mantle of leadership to President George Weah. For the first time in 75 years, Liberia's successfully completed a peaceful transfer of power, from one democratic elected president to another democratic elected president, even following an uncertain electoral period. This historic and peaceful transfer of power in a country that not long ago experienced decades of civil war is one of my greatest achievements. But this monumental achievement is not mine alone. It is equally shared by over four million Liberians who dreamt of a better and more secure future. It is also shared with the international community, notably the United Nations, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, European Union, the United States, our main partner, China, and others who supported Liberia along this 12-year journey. How did I get there? How did I reach that far? My story begins with an unlikely prophecy. A few days after I was born, and old man proclaimed to my parents, "This child "will be great." And I have had to shoulder that lofty expectation all my life, first with my parents, then for my country, and now for the next generation of leaders. My childhood was charted out as a privileged one. My parents were born of indigenous roots, but father held an elite position as the legislature's first native member. My siblings and I lived in the city, attended school there, and would spend our summers in my family's village with our mother and grandmother. We spent our vacation enjoying nature, practicing traditional farming, swimming, fishing in the nearby stream, picking wild fruits and flowers. Our father became ill early on, and passed away by the time I was seven, leaving my mother to care for four children. A teacher and a preacher, our mother became an anchor for all of us. I watched as she embraced hard work with a singular focus, to see us succeed. She instilled humility, honesty, and determination to ensure that we knew the value of what it takes to make life. Today, I firmly believe that I'm where I am and can continue the hard work ahead because of the lessons and the values she instilled in me. I graduated high school in merit at 17 years old. I dedicated the next decade of my life to my husband. I bore four sons in three years, and watched my former peers advance in school and their careers. Meanwhile, my marriage what turbulent at best, and I experienced domestic violence. In 1961, my husband was granted an opportunity to study in the United States, which afforded me the chance to nurture the same dream after decades and four children of being out of school. I approached this incredible opportunity with the same determination to succeed, that I have once seen in my own mother, and I went on to earn an accounting degree from the Madison Business College in Wisconsin. Sometimes strength comes in different ways when I learned it in Madison in the winter. And prior to that, I had never been on an airplane, the cold, terrible cold. My only response is to cry the cry freeze. To go to school required the breathtaking decision of leaving our children at home, the youngest one being one year old. We were able to do so by the established tradition of an extended family system where grandmothers helped with taking care of children to enable their children to have the opportunity of studying. On return home, I dedicated my time to becoming a good professional leading to stress in marriage. I was ever mindful, however, that our country required changed, deserved better. My family experience made this so. My political activism was ignited early at home when an eminence female jurist and a courageous church led a street march demanding freedom for civic protest and greater independence for judges in the courts. Their passion and determination inspired me to action and made it difficult for me to continue to do business as usual. I found it difficult to stay on the sidelines as I watched the political tide that was weeping Liberia at that time. This tide will eventually become a storm, washing away the progress of the past and the potential of the future. Again, in a commencement address to my high school alma mater, I called for less government control of the economy and pleaded for return to democracy, I was taken to a cabinet meeting and threatened with jail term. My escape was the opportunity to go to the United States for further training at Harvard. Subsequently, I completed a certificate course at the Economics Institute of the University of Colorado at Boulder in advance of my master degree from Harvard. I worked part-time during this period. I did what I could to make ends meet, and I learned what it meant to go without basic necessities. The hardships I experienced made me more prepared for life at home, and gave me a greater appreciation for the struggles and resilience of the poor. While at Harvard, I witnessed the heights of protest against the Vietnam war. I saw the passion and fire in all size of the debate. My activism zeal was enhanced. I returned home, served in government and enjoyed a rapid ascent as a civil servant. I found it hard however to stay on the sidelines as I watched he political tide that was sweeping Liberia at that time. It was during this time that I learned, as Secretary Albright has stated, that women have to be active listeners and interrupters. But when you interrupt, you have to know what you are talking about. Believe me, I interrupted. I refused to keep silent about the inequalities in policies, practices, and the corruption that plagued our government. As junior official of the then Department of Treasury, I represented that office at a development conference at the University of Liberia sponsored by Harvard. I used all that I could to describe why change was necessary, and I was threatened with dismissal. I had become galvanized in my resolve to steer better course for our country and right the wrongs of the past. I rose up with fellow compatriots at home and in the diaspora speaking truth to power as I sped down the path that would led me in prison twice and forced me to flee my country. Yes, the path of resistance is turbulent, arduous, and perilous by nature. It sometimes requires unimaginable sacrifice from those on the march. For women and mothers, the path of resistance often demands even more. I spend the '80s and '90s in exile abroad and pursued a professional career, building upon what was achieved when I was at the World Bank several years before, most notably, in that period, at Citibank Nairobi, as the first African woman vice president subsequently at the United nations where I helped other countries advance develop in economic reforms. My international work gave me a new platform to raise global awareness to the need for change, to the culture of the lack of integrity, to violence and impunity, which was part of the Liberian culture. Recalling the old man's prophecy, I returned to Liberia and attempted to interrupt the violence, the utter lack of respect for human life. I challenged the status quo. I challenged all of those in absolutely power. I challenged my fellow compatriots to see beyond the barrel of a gun and dream of a better future. And this time I challenged myself to put everything on the line to try to bring lasting change. I ran for the presidency in 1997, and I lost, but I underestimated the impact of a decade of violence. I underestimated power of corruption and lawlessness at the time. Most importantly, I underestimated the power of a dream, the power of the collective dream of Liberian mothers. Secretary Clinton has stated that women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the world. That was very true in Liberia. The women of Liberia are mothers, daughters, sisters, aunts, and grandmothers. For 14 years, they are the brunt of violence. The carried the true and brutal cost of war. And together, they nurtured the collective dream of a peaceful Liberia. In 2005, the women of Liberia played a pivotal role in electing me to be the first woman president of Liberi, which also has been mentioned, made me the first democratically elected female president in Africa. I carry this honor in full acknowledgement of the sacrifices of the women of Liberia, of the sacrifices of African women, of the sacrifices of girls al over our continent. It's through them that this dream is realized and they belong to have the dividend from that dream. Together we inherited a war-torn country which face total economic collapse, destroyed infrastructure, dysfunctional institutions, a staggering external debt, and a bloated civil service, and social culture shaped by decades of desperation, violence, and dependency, but there has been indisputable progress. In January, I handed over a country firmly rooted in democratic ideas, imbued with basic freedoms, and open society, and the economic and political empowerment of women. Our economy went from ground zero to achieving a growth rate of up to 9% at its peak before global externalities made a big difference. We had introduced running water and electricity for the first time in years. We had ensured that girls had a right, women had a right to find their voice. And most importantly, Liberians could share a realized collective dream of peace and prosperity for our country. Despite all of the challenges inherent in the loss of gains as a result of those conditions, including declining global commodity prices and a terrifying Ebola virus, we were able to set the country on the road to recovery by building a strong foundation. Under my leadership, in 12 consecutive years of peace, following four consecutive years of conflict, Liberian chose the power of the ballot or the power of the bullet. This is to share legacy of my administration and all the supporters of a stable and prosperous Liberia. For all of this, I'm proud to have been awarded the United States Medal of Freedom, the Nobel Peace Prize, the Indira Gandhi Prize, and, just a few weeks ago, as mentioned, the Mo Ibrahim Prize for African Leadership. As I look into the future, I am mindful that at my age, there are limitations as to what else can be achieved. But I have always been a dreamer, and age is the latest in the series of limitations I have confronted in my life. I was raised by a single mother. I was a young bride. I endured domestic violence. I survived political persecution, and yet still I rise. I will continue to rise in the service of women to fight for equality, to promote peace, and to call for inclusive democracies across Africa and the world as you set your goals to continue your life's journey. Set them high, far beyond your current capacity to achieve them. The determination to stay the course, to keep pushing back the frontiers of possibilities will strengthen you to overcome obstacles. I close by leaving you with additional words from the powerful poet and civil rights activist, Maya Angelou. We may encounter many defeats, but we would never be defeated. We are more than what we want to be. That's mine. We can claim what we ought to be. I implore you to always march forward, to dream big, to nurture your dream, to go beyond your current capacity. Because in doing so, that dream can be fulfilled. I thank you. - Test. Madam President, thank you for that inspirational talk. Your life I an inspiration to us here in this room, but without a doubt to the world. I'm gonna start. We have some time for questions, and the way we're gonna do this is that questions were collected from the scholars earlier today, and we've assembled a few. And I'm just gonna kick us off with a question. I was so moved by the words how you described women's leadership, described the power of women, the power of the dream of mothers, what women did to come together to elect you, the power of women to advance nations. You achieved so much in Liberia when it comes to advancing women's rights and the power of women. How do we today think about moving that work forward in Africa and around the world? - We must continue the work of advocacy, the work of information exchange, networking. Women groups must continue to have their voices, must continue to speak, continue to claim the equality and the leadership that's rightfully theirs. I think if we look at the world today, every country included, you can see the power of women's action. You can see the progress that has been made all over the world. We must continue on that path, ensuring that the young ones have the education and capacity to be a part of that progressive movement and to continue to speak truth to power. - I'm going to now continue with some questions from our scholars. This is a question from Shukri Ali, Wellesley College class of 2021. What was the biggest lesson you learned as Liberia's first female president and as the first woman to be elected democratically in Africa? What advice would you give to future female black presidents out there? And I think we have a few, at least a few. - The first is to realize that if you're coming into office as the first president, you face difficulties to manage the expectations. Setting the goals through your agenda, your development agenda, ensuring that, that agenda is communicated, that the challenges that would be faced would be numerous, but letting them know that the expectations perhaps far exceed what you could do. One has to also set the example for you only get followers if you are the first to show that your promises, or your goals, or your policies are those that you are willing to be the first one to respect and the first one to enforce. What was the other one? - What advice would you give to the future female black presidents out there? I think you've pretty much answered that. - I would give that advice to the future president, period. Black or no black. - Right. The next question is, and this is a slightly longer one, so just bare with me, from Thema Shongwe, Wellesley class of 2020. And she writes, "Some cultures back home on the continent "are highly patriarchal. "And the men's view of a woman's place "has also been accepted and propagated "by our mothers, aunts, and sisters. "So as young girls, we are taught to believe "that certain spaces or positions are not for us. "Also, not seeing many women in these position spaces "makes it even harder to believe otherwise. "As a young woman interested in pursuing "a career in public service, "I was wondering if you have any advice "on practical steps "as to how to get "the women and men "to believe in and support your vision. "Essentially, how do we, as young African women, "overcome the centuries old cultural barriers "to our success in public service "in our countries in Africa?" - You know, let me say that the tradition of you, of the woman's place in society has changed tremendously over time. Today, women are taking full opportunities of education, women are moving from the traditional areas of what we call the soft the positions, like pursuing, be a teacher or nurse. Today, women are pilots and scientists, and engineers, and doctors, and every area you can think about. On the political side, just look across. In our continent, whereas, maybe two decades ago, we had male domination, totally across. Today, women are holding every position, not just in Africa. But if you look sway from Africa, what is Latin America, or Asia, or Europe, look at the many women that are in high leadership. For some it may be traditional, like maybe in other countries. But for many, this is the result of the hard work of women who continue to push, who continue to advocate, who continue to work together, and who continue to perform, to set the example. Role models now exist all over the continent, and those role models inspire the women at the grass root levels, the young girls. And so, really, it's now... It's a train that has left the station and is gonna keep on rolling. You can't stop it. - And would you agree, Madam President, that you don't have to reach the highest levels to inspire, to begin to be part of that change. I believe that our scholars who are here today are a part of that change absolutely today when they go back to their homes or here as they work with other students and young people. - Absolutely. Those women who spoke today are demonstrating leadership already. They were able to dissect the speeches that came during the conference, to see what it meant for them. How they would use this to change their lives, to make sure they become the one that set the phase and the example that other will follow. And you know, as you correctly said, it's not leadership just at the pinnacle. It's leadership throughout society, even at the grass root level. Some of the biggest satisfaction I get is when I go into rural areas where we've been able to change the notion that women do not sit with men to make decisions, that women have to be in the background. Even the Muslim village where the religious practice is to keep women separate, but even that has changed a bit, where they do sit and they participate to get a decision. Like I said, the great satisfaction is go to into a rural village, and in a town hall meeting, a Palava Hut meeting as we call it, for a woman to sand up and say, "Madam President, thank you. "I can now speak. "I can now participate." It's at all levels. And we must claim this leadership in every way at all levels. - Thank you. Next question is from Elsa Kudsi. And she asks, "Was there anything you wished you could've done "or would've done differently "during your presidency?" - Yes, many things. I think I would've taken a different approach on the integrity issue. We tried to stress a lot of the preventative aspect of fighting corruption, improving compensation levels, the reviewed foreign ability, putting in system, putting integrity institutions, but we failed on the punishment side. And maybe we should've given that a bit more thought and would've done much more to set that example. So in that respect, we could've done better. - The next question. What specific steps did you take as president to improve education for girls? And what measures have you taken to ensure the strength of female education or education that continues now that your time in office has ended? - We made education free increasingly until the ninth grade or primary schools, middle level and all. We insisted that everyone, all the girls, had to go to school. It was part of the policy. We gave encouragement by improving the working conditions of the mothers, particularly mothers who kept their children on the farms or in the market, to make sure that they had. Of course we created more opportunities for girls to go to school, some programs that were helped by foundations, targeting the education of girls, the support for teacher training. Those areas where we're increasing. As I said, our enrollment increased. Today, we have a little less than two million children in school, and the parity with women are different. I mean equal, just about equal. So, there's still a lot to go because retention is part of the problem in our system. But there's a lot today. It's just a joy seeing all the young kids go to school now. I say to you that we still have a large number of kids that are not in school. Not in school because there are not sufficient facilities, particularly in rural areas. Not in school because the infrastructure is a constraint in giving them access to school. And so, the thing to do is to continue to improve upon them. So that all of those who have entered can have it expanded to be able to increase the number of students in school, but we've come along way with that. As a matter of fact, that's just a Liberian case, which in many cases, a little bit different from others, but look at the rest of the continent. It's tremendous progress. Well, infrastructure, the institution, the level of education are much higher. The progress there, even double, triple times what is worse in the past, and women are there in the forefront. Women are part of it. Women are getting the same education as men and boys, as girls. So, a big improvement. - And it's that real first step in terms of empowerment and a shift to really see that change that can happen with parts of culture that are negative, and really educate our girls, as we've talked about earlier, together not only in the cities, but in the rural areas. Our last question, and you hinted towards this, but maybe we could talk a little bit more. You've had a wonderful and really transformative run as president, what's next? - I'm tempted to say sleep. - You've done that maybe for a month and a half. - No, I think we have to continue to use our life story as an example to continue to inspire, to motivate, to encourage other young women, to be able to look at that example in the context of other examples, other equally interesting and successful examples through out the continent, and to single out where are some of the commonalities, where have women use certain approaches that have brought the results we want that are able to enhance the participation, leadership of women. And so, I'm trying to work on a concept paper that I can say how can we do a center that will be able to link in partnership with others in the continent to bring some of these great experiences in the life story of those who have served us, role models, to continue to inspire the young and to inspire women. - Well, you have definitely inspired all of us and continue to inspire not only the continent, but the world. And we are so honored that you shared this time with us, and really ended what has been a most remarkable and inspirational two days. Madam President, thank you, and we would be honored to be on that next leg of the journey with you. Thank you. - Thank you. - As President Johnson has said, what an incredible two-day event. I just wanna have a couple of announcements. We want to continue your experience here at Wellesley, and we invite you all to explore African culture here at Wellesley. There are many shuttles outside to take you to three separate events. You have to choose individually which one you'd like to attend. The first one is going to be a tour of David Museum where you will see work from artists from Africa and the African diaspora. We do know that the elevator is not working, but the freight elevator is working for anyone who needs to use an elevator to move between floors at Davis. The second option is to tour Harambe House, the center of cultural and educational and social activities for students and faculty here at Wellesley. And the third option is Clapp Library where there are several exhibits on display featuring the work of Cindy Coffee, class of 2016. Her work on African presence at Wellesley College that includes the original research and audio recordings of the first African Wellesley student graduate, class of 1963. And finally, for guest who would like to go back to Hampton Inn, there will be departures at shuttles right out in the front at 5:00, 6:00, and 6:30. And finally, I want to thank the public affairs team, Kira, Solen, and Sophie, the events team, Lyn, Sarah, and Terry, our tech team, Jarlath and his team, volunteers and coordinators, as well as the custodial staff. So, thank you so much for a fantastic two-day event. We look forward to many more.


Life before the Revolution

Judge Johnson was born in Calvert County, Maryland, on November 4, 1732, to Thomas and Dorcas Sedgwick Johnson. His grandfather, also named Thomas, was a lawyer in London who had emigrated to Maryland sometime before 1700. He was the fourth of ten children, some of whom also had large families. His niece (daughter of his brother Joshua), Louisa Johnson, married John Quincy Adams. The family, including Thomas, were educated at home. As a young man he was attracted to the law, studied it, and was admitted to the Maryland bar in 1753. By 1760, he had moved his practice to Frederick County, and in 1761 he was elected to the Maryland provincial assembly for the first time. Johnson married Ann Jennings, the daughter of a judge from Annapolis on February 16, 1766.[2]

Revolutionary years

In 1774 and 1775 the Maryland assembly sent him as a delegate to the Continental Congress. In the Congress he was firmly in the camp of those who favored separation from Great Britain. In November 1775, Congress created a Committee of [Secret] Correspondence that was to seek foreign support for the war. Thomas Johnson, along with Benjamin Franklin, and Benjamin Harrison V were initially named to the committee.[3] He then returned to Maryland and continued his work in the state's Assembly when the United States Declaration of Independence was signed. In 1775 he drafted the declaration of rights adopted by the Maryland assembly and later included as the first part of the state's first constitution, which was adopted for Maryland by the state's constitutional convention at Annapolis in 1776. He also served as brigadier general in the Maryland militia. Thomas Johnson and his brothers supported the revolution by manufacturing ammunition and possibly cannon.[4] Their former factory, Catoctin Furnace, is now part of a state park near Camp David, just north of Frederick, Maryland.

The state legislature elected Johnson as the new state's first Governor in 1777. He served in that capacity until 1779. In the 1780s he held a number of judicial posts in Maryland, as well as served in the assembly in 1780, 1786, and 1787. He pushed a bill through the Maryland Assembly naming commissioners to meet with Virginia's commissioners to "…frame such liberal and equitable regulations concerning [the Potomac] river as may be mutually advantageous to the two states and that they make report thereon to the General assembly." While not a commissioner himself,[5] the resulting conference agreed to regulate and settle the jurisdiction and navigation on their mutual border, and served as a predecessor to the Constitutional Convention of 1787.[6] Johnson attended the Maryland Convention in 1788, where he successfully urged the state's ratification of the United States Constitution.

Federal years

In September 1789, President George Washington nominated Johnson to be the first federal judge for the District of Maryland, but he declined the appointment. In 1790 and 1791, Johnson was the senior justice in the Maryland General Court system. In January 1791, President Washington appointed Johnson, with David Stuart and Daniel Carroll, to the commission that would lay out the federal capital in accordance with the Residence Act of 1790. In September 1791 the commissioners named the federal city "The City of Washington" and the federal district "The Territory of Columbia".[7]

On August 5, 1791, Johnson received a recess appointment from Washington to the seat on the U.S. Supreme Court that became available after John Rutledge resigned. Formally nominated on October 31, 1791, Johnson was confirmed by the United States Senate on November 7, 1791. Though he received his commission that day, he was not sworn in until August 6, 1792.[8] Johnson was the author of the Court's first written opinion, Georgia v. Brailsford, in 1792. He served on the court until January 16, 1793, when he resigned, citing his poor health and the difficulties of circuit-riding. His tenure of 163 days is the shortest, to date, of any Justice.[9]

Johnson suffered very poor health for many years, and cited it in declining Washington's 1795 offer to nominate him for Secretary of State, as Thomas Jefferson had recommended. He managed to deliver a eulogy for his friend George Washington at a birthday memorial service on February 22, 1800. On February 28, 1801, President John Adams named Johnson chief judge for the District of Columbia when first constituting that body.

Later years, death and legacy

His daughter Ann had married John Colin Grahame in 1788, and in his later years Johnson lived with them in a home they had built in Frederick, Maryland. The home, called Rose Hill Manor, is now a county park and open to the public. Governor Thomas Johnson High School is on half of the Rose Hill property. He died at Rose Hill on October 26, 1819, and was originally buried in All Saints churchyard. His remains were removed and re-interred at Mount Olivet Cemetery in Frederick.[10][11]

Johnson was one of the first investors in the Illinois-Wabash Company, which acquired a vast swath of land in Illinois directly from several Indian tribes. Soon after his death in 1819 his son Joshua Johnson and grandson Thomas Graham sued William M'Intosh in the landmark Supreme Court case Johnson v. M'Intosh. The case, which remains one of the most important property decisions in American history, determined that only the federal government could acquire Indian land, so Johnson's descendants did not have good title to the property.[12]

Other schools named after Thomas Johnson include Governor Thomas Johnson Middle School in Frederick, Maryland, Thomas Johnson Middle School in Lanham, Maryland and Thomas Johnson Elementary School in Baltimore, Maryland. In 1978, the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge was opened to traffic. The bridge crosses the Patuxent River and connects Calvert with St. Mary's Counties.

See also


  1. ^ "Justices 1789 to Present". Supreme Court of the United States.
  2. ^ Delaplaine, Edward S. (1927). "The Life of Thomas Johnson: Member of the Continental Congress, First Governor of Maryland, and Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court". Westminster, Maryland, US: Willow Bend Books: 492.
  3. ^ "Secret Committee of Correspondence/Committee for Foreign Affairs, 1775–1777". U. S. Department of State. Archived from the original on 2010-02-28. Retrieved 2007-11-21.
  4. ^ "Catoctin Iron Furnace". U. S. National Park Service.
  5. ^ John Clifford, Mount Vernon Conference
  6. ^ Compact of 1785 (1786 Md. Laws c. 1)
  7. ^ Crew, Harvey W., Webb, William Bensing, Wooldridge, John (1892), Centennial History of the City of Washington, D.C., United Brethren Publishing House, Dayton, Ohio, Chapter IV. "Permanent Capital Site Selected", pp. 87–88, 101 in Google Books
  8. ^ "Members of the Supreme Court from the Supreme Court of the United States" (PDF). Official website of the Supreme Court of the United States. Retrieved July 21, 2013.
  9. ^ "Oyez: Thomas Johnson". Oyez: U. S. Supreme Court Media.
  10. ^ "Christensen, George A. (1983) Here Lies the Supreme Court: Gravesites of the Justices, Yearbook". Archived from the original on September 3, 2005. Retrieved 2005-09-03. Supreme Court Historical Society at Internet Archive.
  11. ^ See also, Christensen, George A., Here Lies the Supreme Court: Revisited, Journal of Supreme Court History, Volume 33 Issue 1, pp. 17–41 (19 Feb 2008), University of Alabama.
  12. ^ Eric Kades, The Dark Side of Efficiency: Johnson v. M'Intosh and the Expropriation of American Indian Lands, 148 U. Penn. L. Rev. 1065 (2000)

Further reading

  • Abraham, Henry J. (1992). Justices and Presidents: A Political History of Appointments to the Supreme Court (3rd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-506557-3.
  • Cushman, Clare (2001). The Supreme Court Justices: Illustrated Biographies, 1789–1995 (2nd ed.). (Supreme Court Historical Society, Congressional Quarterly Books). ISBN 1-56802-126-7.
  • Delaplaine, Edward (1998). The Life of Thomas Johnson: Member of the Continental Congress, First Governor of Maryland, and Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court (paperback ed.). Heritage Books. ISBN 1-58549-687-1.
  • Flanders, Henry. The Lives and Times of the Chief Justices of the United States Supreme Court. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1874 at Google Books.
  • Frank, John P. (1995). Friedman, Leon; Israel, Fred L., eds. The Justices of the United States Supreme Court: Their Lives and Major Opinions. Chelsea House Publishers. ISBN 0-7910-1377-4.
  • Hall, Kermit L., ed. (1992). The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-505835-6.
  • Martin, Fenton S.; Goehlert, Robert U. (1990). The U.S. Supreme Court: A Bibliography. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Books. ISBN 0-87187-554-3.
  • Urofsky, Melvin I. (1994). The Supreme Court Justices: A Biographical Dictionary. New York: Garland Publishing. ISBN 0-8153-1176-1.

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Robert Eden
as Royal Governor of Maryland
Governor of Maryland
Succeeded by
Thomas Lee
Legal offices
Preceded by
John Rutledge
Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States
Succeeded by
William Paterson
This page was last edited on 24 January 2019, at 19:45
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