Hugh Samuel Johnson

Hugh Samuel Johnson

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Hugh Samuel "Iron Pants" Johnson (August 5, 1881 – April 15, 1942) American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 officer, businessman, speech writer, government official and newspaper columnist. He is best known as a member of the Brain Trust
Brain Trust
Brain trust began as a term for a group of close advisors to a political candidate or incumbent, prized for their expertise in particular fields. The term is most associated with the group of advisors to Franklin Roosevelt during his presidential administration...

 of Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

 in 1932-34. He wrote numerous speeches for FDR and helped plan the New Deal
New Deal
The New Deal was a series of economic programs implemented in the United States between 1933 and 1936. They were passed by the U.S. Congress during the first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The programs were Roosevelt's responses to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call...

. Appointed head of the National Recovery Administration
National Recovery Administration
The National Recovery Administration was the primary New Deal agency established by U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. The goal was to eliminate "cut-throat competition" by bringing industry, labor and government together to create codes of "fair practices" and set prices...

 (NRA) in 1933, he was highly energetic in his "blue eagle" campaign to reorganize American business to reduce cut-throat competition and raise wages. Schlesinger (1958) and Ohl (1985) conclude that he was an excellent organizer, but that he was also domineering, abusive, outspoken, and unable to work harmoniously with his peers. The NRA was ended by a ruling the Supreme Court, and Johnson left the administration after a little more than a year.

Early life and military career



He was born in Fort Scott, Kansas
Fort Scott, Kansas
Fort Scott is a city in and the county seat of Bourbon County, Kansas, United States, south of Kansas City, on the Marmaton River. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 8,087. It is the home of the Fort Scott National Historic Site and the Fort Scott National...

 in 1881 to Samuel L. and Elizabeth (Mead) Johnson. His paternal grandparents, Samuel and Matilda (MacAlan) Johnson, emigrated to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 from Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 in 1837 and originally settled in Brooklyn, New York. Hugh's father was a lawyer, and he attended public school in Wichita, Kansas
Wichita, Kansas
Wichita is the largest city in the U.S. state of Kansas.As of the 2010 census, the city population was 382,368. Located in south-central Kansas on the Arkansas River, Wichita is the county seat of Sedgwick County and the principal city of the Wichita metropolitan area...

, before the family moved to Alva
Alva, Oklahoma
Alva is a city in Woods County, Oklahoma, along the Salt Fork Arkansas River. The population was 4,945 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Woods County....

, Oklahoma Territory
Oklahoma Territory
The Territory of Oklahoma was an organized incorporated territory of the United States that existed from May 2, 1890, until November 16, 1907, when it was joined with the Indian Territory under a new constitution and admitted to the Union as the State of Oklahoma.-Organization:Oklahoma Territory's...

.
He attempted to run away from home to join the Oklahoma state militia
Military of Oklahoma
The Militia of the State of Oklahoma, the de facto Military of Oklahoma, is the unified armed force of Oklahoma. The Oklahoma National Guard comprises the majority of the State Militia and consists of both Army and Air Guard departments....

 at the age of 15, but he was apprehended by his family before he left town. His father promised to try to secure him an appointment to the United States Military Academy
United States Military Academy
The United States Military Academy at West Point is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located at West Point, New York. The academy sits on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River, north of New York City...

 (West Point), and was successful in obtaining an alternate appointment. Johnson himself discovered that the individual who was first in line for the appointment was too old, and convinced him to step aside so that Johnson could enter the Academy.

Johnson entered West Point in 1899, and graduated and was commissioned a Second Lieutenant
Second Lieutenant
Second lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer military rank in many armed forces.- United Kingdom and Commonwealth :The rank second lieutenant was introduced throughout the British Army in 1871 to replace the rank of ensign , although it had long been used in the Royal Artillery, Royal...

 in the 1st Cavalry on June 11, 1903. Douglas MacArthur
Douglas MacArthur
General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was an American general and field marshal of the Philippine Army. He was a Chief of Staff of the United States Army during the 1930s and played a prominent role in the Pacific theater during World War II. He received the Medal of Honor for his service in the...

 was one of his West Point classmates. From 1907 to 1909 he was stationed at Pampanga
Pampanga
Pampanga is a province of the Philippines located in the Central Luzon region. Its capital is the City of San Fernando, Pampanga. Pampanga is bordered by the provinces of Bataan and Zambales to the west, Tarlac and Nueva Ecija to the north, and Bulacan to the southeast...

, Philippines
Philippines
The Philippines , officially known as the Republic of the Philippines , is a country in Southeast Asia in the western Pacific Ocean. To its north across the Luzon Strait lies Taiwan. West across the South China Sea sits Vietnam...

, but later was transferred to California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

. In the early years of the 20th century, most national park
National park
A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns. Although individual nations designate their own national parks differently A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or...

s in the United States were administered by units of the United States Army. Johnson was subsequently stationed at Yosemite
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is a United States National Park spanning eastern portions of Tuolumne, Mariposa and Madera counties in east central California, United States. The park covers an area of and reaches across the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain chain...

 and Sequoia
Sequoia National Park
Sequoia National Park is a national park in the southern Sierra Nevada east of Visalia, California, in the United States. It was established on September 25, 1890. The park spans . Encompassing a vertical relief of nearly , the park contains among its natural resources the highest point in the...

 national parks. He was promoted to 1st Lieutenant
Lieutenant
A lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer in many nations' armed forces. Typically, the rank of lieutenant in naval usage, while still a junior officer rank, is senior to the army rank...

 on March 11, 1911, and was named Superintendent of Sequoia National Park in 1912.

Wishing to follow in his father's footsteps, Johnson won permission from General Enoch Crowder
Enoch Crowder
Major General Enoch Herbert Crowder, USA commonly referred to as General Crowder, was an American Army lawyer who served as the Judge Advocate General of the United States Army from 1911 to 1923...

 to attend the University of California
University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

 (at Berkeley
Berkeley, California
Berkeley is a city on the east shore of the San Francisco Bay in Northern California, United States. Its neighbors to the south are the cities of Oakland and Emeryville. To the north is the city of Albany and the unincorporated community of Kensington...

) where he received his Bachelor of Laws
Bachelor of Laws
The Bachelor of Laws is an undergraduate, or bachelor, degree in law originating in England and offered in most common law countries as the primary law degree...

 degree (with honors) in 1915 and his Juris Doctor
Juris Doctor
Juris Doctor is a professional doctorate and first professional graduate degree in law.The degree was first awarded by Harvard University in the United States in the late 19th century and was created as a modern version of the old European doctor of law degree Juris Doctor (see etymology and...

 in 1916 (doubling up on courses to graduate in half the time required). Transferring to the Judge Advocate General's Corps
Judge Advocate General's Corps
Judge Advocate General's Corps, also known as JAG or JAG Corps, refers to the legal branch or specialty of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, and Navy. Officers serving in the JAG Corps are typically called Judge Advocates. The Marine Corps and Coast Guard do not maintain separate JAG Corps...

 (JAG), from May to October 1916 he served under General John J. Pershing
John J. Pershing
John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing, GCB , was a general officer in the United States Army who led the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I...

 in Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 with the Pancho Villa Expedition
Pancho Villa Expedition
The Pancho Villa Expedition—officially known in the United States as the Mexican Expedition and sometimes colloquially referred to as the Punitive Expedition—was a military operation conducted by the United States Army against the paramilitary forces of Mexican insurgent Francisco "Pancho" Villa...

. promoted to Captain on July 1, 1916, he transferred to the JAG headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....

, in October 1916. He was promoted to Major
Major
Major is a rank of commissioned officer, with corresponding ranks existing in almost every military in the world.When used unhyphenated, in conjunction with no other indicator of rank, the term refers to the rank just senior to that of an Army captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel. ...

 on May 15, 1917, and to Lieutenant Colonel
Lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant colonel is a rank of commissioned officer in the armies and most marine forces and some air forces of the world, typically ranking above a major and below a colonel. The rank of lieutenant colonel is often shortened to simply "colonel" in conversation and in unofficial correspondence...

 on August 5, 1917. He was named Deputy Provost Marshal General
United States Army Provost Marshal General
The Provost Marshal General is a United States Army staff position that handles investigations and incarcerations of U.S. Army personnel. It is the senior-most Provost Marshal position in the U.S. Army, reporting to the Chief of Staff of the United States Army. The position brings all aspects of...

 in October 1917, and the same month was named to a Department of War
United States Department of Defense
The United States Department of Defense is the U.S...

 committee on military training (the U.S. had entered World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 on April 6, 1917). As a Captain, Johnson helped co-author the regulations implementing the Selective Service Act of 1917
Selective Service Act of 1917
The Selective Service Act or Selective Draft Act was passed by the Congress of the United States on May 18, 1917. It was envisioned in December 1916 and brought to President Woodrow Wilson's attention shortly after the break in relations with Germany in February 1917...

. Without Congressional authorization, he ordered completed several of the initial first steps needed to implement the draft. The action could have led to his court-martial
Court-martial
A court-martial is a military court. A court-martial is empowered to determine the guilt of members of the armed forces subject to military law, and, if the defendant is found guilty, to decide upon punishment.Most militaries maintain a court-martial system to try cases in which a breach of...

 had Congress not acted (a month later) to pass the conscription law. He was promoted to Colonel
Colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

 on January 8, 1918, and to Brigadier General
Brigadier
Brigadier is a senior military rank, the meaning of which is somewhat different in different military services. The brigadier rank is generally superior to the rank of colonel, and subordinate to major general....

 on April 15, 1918. At the time of his promotion, he was the youngest person to reach the rank of Brigadier General since the Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

, and the youngest West Point graduate to remain continuously in the service who had ever reached the rank. Ohl (1985) finds that Johnson was an excellent second-in-command during the war in the Office of the Provost Marshal under Brigadier General Enoch H. Crowder as long as he was closely watched and tightly supervised. His considerable talents were effectively drawn upon in the planning and implementation of the registration and draft before and during the conflict. However he was never able to work smoothly with others.

As a Brigadier General, Johnson was appointed Director of the Purchase and Supply Branch of the General Staff in April 1918, and was promoted to Assistant Director of the Purchase, Storage and Traffic Division of the General Staff in October 1918. In this capacity, he worked closely with the War Industries Board
War Industries Board
The War Industries Board was a United States government agency established on July 28, 1917, during World War I, to coordinate the purchase of war supplies. The organization encouraged companies to use mass-production techniques to increase efficiency and urged them to eliminate waste by...

. He favorably impressed many businessmen, including Bernard Baruch
Bernard Baruch
Bernard Mannes Baruch was an American financier, stock-market speculator, statesman, and political consultant. After his success in business, he devoted his time toward advising U.S. Presidents Woodrow Wilson and Franklin D. Roosevelt on economic matters and became a philanthropist.-Early life...

 (head of the War Industries Board). These contacts later proved critical in winning Johnson a position with President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

's administration. He was put in command of the 15th Infantry Brigade, but the unit did not deploy to Europe because the war had ended. Johnson resigned from the U.S. Army on February 25, 1919. For his service in the Provost Marshal's office and in executing the draft, he was awarded the Army Distinguished Service Medal
Distinguished Service Medal (Army)
The Distinguished Service Medal is a military award of the United States Army that is presented to any person who, while serving in any capacity with the United States military, has distinguished himself or herself by exceptionally meritorious service to the Government in a duty of great...

 in 1926.

New Deal career


Johnson was named assistant general manager of the Moline Plow Company on September 1, 1919. Moline Plow's president, George Peek
George Peek
George Nelson Peek was an American agricultural economist, business executive, and civil servant. He was the first Administrator of the Agricultural Adjustment Administration and the first President of the two banks that would become the Export-Import Bank of the United States.-Early life and...

, and Johnson were both supporters of the McNary–Haugen Farm Relief Bill, a proposed federal law which would have established the first farm price support
Price support
In economics, a price support may be either a subsidy or a price control, both with the intended effect of keeping the market price of a good higher than the competitive equilibrium level....

s in U.S. history.

Johnson left Moline Plow in 1927 to become an adviser to Bernard Baruch. He joined the Brain Trust
Brain Trust
Brain trust began as a term for a group of close advisors to a political candidate or incumbent, prized for their expertise in particular fields. The term is most associated with the group of advisors to Franklin Roosevelt during his presidential administration...

 of Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1932 presidential election
United States presidential election, 1932
The United States presidential election of 1932 took place as the effects of the Wall Street Crash of 1929, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act of 1930, the Revenue Act of 1932, and the Great Depression were being felt intensely across the country. President Herbert Hoover's popularity was falling as...

. His major role was drafting speeches, most notably one that FDR delivered in Pittsburgh denouncing the reckless spending of the Hoover administration and calling for a very conservative fiscal policy.

NRA


Johnson played a major role in the New Deal
New Deal
The New Deal was a series of economic programs implemented in the United States between 1933 and 1936. They were passed by the U.S. Congress during the first term of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The programs were Roosevelt's responses to the Great Depression, and focused on what historians call...

. In 1933 Roosevelt appointed Johnson to administer the National Recovery Administration
National Recovery Administration
The National Recovery Administration was the primary New Deal agency established by U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933. The goal was to eliminate "cut-throat competition" by bringing industry, labor and government together to create codes of "fair practices" and set prices...

 (NRA). One author claims Johnson looked on Italian Fascist corporativism as a kind of model. He distributed copies of a fascist tract called "The Corporate State" by one of Mussolini's favorite economists, including giving one to Labor Secretary Frances Perkins
Frances Perkins
Frances Perkins , born Fannie Coralie Perkins, was the U.S. Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945, and the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet. As a loyal supporter of her friend, Franklin D. Roosevelt, she helped pull the labor movement into the New Deal coalition...

 and asking her give copies to her cabinet. The NRA involved organizing thousands of businesses under codes drawn up by trade associations and industries. He was recognized for his efforts when Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

named him Man of the Year
Person of the Year
Person of the Year is an annual issue of the United States newsmagazine Time that features and profiles a person, couple, group, idea, place, or machine that "for better or for worse, ...has done the most to influence the events of the year."- History :The tradition of selecting a Man of the Year...

 of 1933—choosing him instead of FDR.

He was faltering badly by 1934, which historians ascribe to the profound contradictions in NRA policies, compounded by heavy drinking on the job. The NRA continued to deteriorate—it was abolished in 1935—and he came under attack by Labor Secretary Frances Perkins
Frances Perkins
Frances Perkins , born Fannie Coralie Perkins, was the U.S. Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945, and the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet. As a loyal supporter of her friend, Franklin D. Roosevelt, she helped pull the labor movement into the New Deal coalition...

 for having Fascist inclinations. Therefore Roosevelt fired Johnson in September 1934

Johnson, who had long been a successful essay writer for national magazines, now became a syndicated newspaper columnist specializing in political commentary. He supported Roosevelt in the 1936 presidential election
United States presidential election, 1936
The United States presidential election of 1936 was the most lopsided presidential election in the history of the United States in terms of electoral votes. In terms of the popular vote, it was the third biggest victory since the election of 1820, which was not seriously contested.The election took...

, but when the Court-packing plan was announced in 1937 he denounced Roosevelt as a would-be dictator. In 1939 he endorsed isolationism—staying out of World War II; he endorsed Wendell Willkie
Wendell Willkie
Wendell Lewis Willkie was a corporate lawyer in the United States and a dark horse who became the Republican Party nominee for the president in 1940. A member of the liberal wing of the GOP, he crusaded against those domestic policies of the New Deal that he thought were inefficient and...

 the Republican candidate in the 1940 presidential election
United States presidential election, 1940
The United States presidential election of 1940 was fought in the shadow of World War II as the United States was emerging from the Great Depression. Incumbent President Franklin D. Roosevelt , a Democrat, broke with tradition and ran for a third term, which became a major issue...

.

Johnson wrote a number of articles and stories. One future history
Future history
A future history is a postulated history of the future and is used by authors in the subgenre of speculative fiction to construct a common background for fiction...

 piece, The Dam, was written in 1911 and appears in the Sam Moskowitz
Sam Moskowitz
Sam Moskowitz was an early fan and organizer of interest in science fiction and, later, a writer, critic, and historian of the field.-Biography:...

 anthology, Science Fiction by Gaslight. In the story, Japan invades and conquers California.

General Hugh S. Johnson died in Washington, D.C., in April 1942 from pneumonia.

Primary sources


External links