US Vice President, US Senator, US Congressman. Johnson was the fifth of eleven children in the family of Robert Johnson and wife Jemima Suggett. Born in Beargrass Station, KY (now a part of Lexington in Fayette County), He spent most of his childhood in Scott County at the Great Crossing settlement near Georgetown which was founded by his parents. He left there to study law at Transylvania College in Lexington and was admitted to the Kentucky bar in 1802. Johnson's family was well known in the state, and he caught the attention of Kentucky politicos who advised him to enter a career in politics. He served in the Kentucky House of Representatives with a term that he started in 1804. In 1806, he was elected to the US House of Representatives where he served from 1807 to 1819. He took a leave of absence during the War of 1812 where he served in the Kentucky Volunteers as a Colonel. He was seriously wounded during the Battle of the Thames in Canada. He also claimed to have killed the Indian chief Tecumseh, which he used to good effect in subsequent political campaigns. Following his service he returned to Congress where he remained until 1819 when he was elected to take a seat in the US Senate. He was there until 1829 then was elected back into the US House. During his time in Washington, he became a loyal follower of Andrew Jackson. So strong was their relationship that he made Johnson his personal choice to be the Vice President under his protégé Martin Van Buren who ran for President in 1836. His selection was not popular. Johnson openly lived in a common law relationship with a former family slave Julia Chinn angering many Southern aristocrats. None the less with Jackson and Van Buren's support he was able to win the office in run off contest in the Senate. Johnson, however, spent most of his time away from Washington during his term in office dealing with business concerns in Kentucky. Johnson was not supported for re-election at the end of the term and ran as de facto candidate when his party did not nominate anyone. After losing that election he returned to Kentucky where he eventually served a brief stint back in the Kentucky House. He died in Frankfort while in office. Johnson was proud of his family which was considered as important as other political families in Kentucky such as the Breckinridges or Clays. He had three other brothers who served in the US Senate or Congress as well as a nephew. His relationship with Chinn, however, was probably the most important in his life. She influenced him enormously causing him to free his slaves. She was also considered a good helpmate for Johnson and an excellent chatelaine for his home. He had two daughters with Chinn who he promoted in society and married to wealthy white men. Their two daughters, Adaline Chinn Johnson who married Thomas W. Scott and
Imogene Chinn Johnson who married Daniel B. Pence.
Bio by: Catharine
Julia Chinn Johnson
Imogene Malvina Johnson Pence