Whatever else may be said of the legal fraternity, it cannot be denied that members of the bar have been more prominent actors in public affairs than any other class of the community. This is but the natural result of causes which are manifest and require no explanation. The ability and training which qualify one to practice law also qualify him in many respects for duties which lie utside the strict path of his profession and which touch the general interests of society. Holding marked precedence among the members of the bar of California is Hon. Grove Lawrence Johnson, who is also a recognized leader in Republican circles and who has been honored with the positions of state legislator and state senator and member of Congress. As the recipient of public trusts he has been most faithful to his duty, laboring earnestly to advance the welfare of the state along lines of material progress and substantial improvement.
Mr. Johnson was born in Syracuse, New York, on the 27th of March, 1841. He is a son of Quincy Adams and Juliet Josephine (Redington) Johnson. The father was born in Carthage, Jefferson county, New York, and traced his ancestry back to 1686, when the first of the name in the new world came from England. The family was represented in the Revolutionary war and the grandfather was a soldier of the war of 1812. Quincy Adams Johnson was a lawyer by profession and won a notable place at the Syracuse bar, where he continued in practice p to the time of his death, which occurred in 1856. He was widely recognized as a most earnest champion of the anti-slavery cause and was a man of prominence, leaving the impress of his individuality upon public thought, feeling and action. The maternal ancestors of Mr. G. L. Johnson came from France early in the eighteenth century, locating in St. Lawrence county, New York. Mrs. Johnson passed away in 1854 about two years prior to the death of her husband.
Hon. Grove L. Johnson was educated in the public schools of Syracuse, being graduated from what would now be called the high school department at the very early age of thirteen years. Following his father's death, which occurred about that time, he entered upon the study of the law. At the time of his father's demise he was thrown upon his own resources and at the age of fifteen years began clerking in a law office for the munificent salary of fifteen dollars per month. It was necessary that he provide for his own support, and in addition to his work as a law clerk he also did copying for other attorneys. It required careful management in order for him to meet necessary expenses, but he was determined in his effort to obtain a knowledge of the principles of jurisprudence in order that he might become an active member of the bar. When only six days past twenty-one he was admitted, and throughout his career as a lawyer he has steadily advanced because of his earnest purpose, his diligent research and careful study and his devotion to the interests of his clients. After his admission to the bar he practiced for a short time in the east and in 1863 came to California.
Mr. Johnson had been married at the age of nineteen years, and when he sought a home on the Pacific coast he left his wife and family in New York, coming to the west to be clerk with his brother, Captain P. B. Johnson, quartermaster in the United States service. He remained with him until May, 1865, when he established his home in Sacramento, where he has ever since resided. In the fall of that year he returned to the east and brought his family to California. In this city he was appointed by E. B. Ryan to the position of deputy county assessor and held that office for two years. In 1866 he was appointed swamp land clerk by the board of supervisors, holding that office until 1874. He was also clerk in the surveyor general's office from 1868 until 1871, and in these various positions he won commendation because of his capability and his faithful performance of duty. On the 1st of May, 1874, having partially regained his health, which up to that date had been poor, he entered upon the active practice of law in Sacramento and has since continued at the bar of this city, steadily advancing in his chosen calling until he now occupies the position of leader of the bar in the central and northern portion of California and stands deservedly high with recognized prestige amongst all the lawyers of the state. He prepares his cases with wide research and provident care, never confining his reading to the limitations of the question at issue, but going beyond, encompassing every contingency. His logical grasp of facts and principles involved in the cases entrusted to his care and of the law applicable to them has been another potent element in his success. In the presentation of his case there is a remarkable clearness of expression and an adequate and precise diction which enables him to make others understand not only the salient points of his argument but his every fine gradation of meaning. As a criminal lawyer he has been very successful, never has lost a case where he was employed to defend. He is one of the most eloquent men ever in our state, whether addressing juries in the court room or the people on public or political questions. Mr. Johnson has been connected with all the important litigation arising in central California for many years. He was one of the attorneys for Sacramento in the notable contest concerning the attempted removal of the state capitol from Sacramento, and to his argument much of the successful defeat of that effort is due. In the case of the People vs. Hurtado, reported in volume 63 of the California Reports, he succeeded in changing the rule of evidence in prosecutions for murder, where the defense is insanity, so as to restrict the testimony to the communications made to the defendant, thus cutting off the sensational tales of domestic trouble or marital infidelity that prior to that time had been permitted to warp jurors' minds.
It has not been at teh bar alone, however, that Mr. Johnson has gained prominence and won distinction, for in political circles he has been for many years a recognized leader and one whose influence has been a marked element in shaping the policy of the state on many questions afecting its material and political welfare. He votes with the Republican party and is a stanch champion of its measures. In 1877 he was electd upon its ticket to the office of assemblyman and in 1879 was elected state senator. He has been found in the council chambers of the nation, for in 1894 he was elected to Congress, representing the second district of California. In 1898 he was again chosen to the assembly, was re-elected in 1900 and for the third successive term in 1902. During each term he was chairman of the judiciary committee, the most important committee of the assembly, and received each session a vote of thanks from that body for his services. He is recognized as the most active working member of the house, giving careful consideration to each question which comes up for settlement and many legislative enactments bear the strong impress of his individuality, his keen analytical mind and his patriotic citizenship.
In fraternal circles Mr. Johnson is also well and widely known. He is a past great sachem of the Improved Order of Red Men, a past grand representative of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, past chief patriarch of the encampment, past chancellor of the Knights of Pythias, past noble arch of the Order of Druids, past chief ranger of the Foresters of America and past master workman of the Ancient Order of United Workmen, and is an honored member of the Elks and also of the Eagles. His personal qualities won him strong friendships among his brethren of these fraternities, and have gained him distinctive preferment in official connection with the different orders with which he is affiliated.
On the 10th of January, 1861, Mr. Johnson was united in marriage at Syracuse, New York, to Miss Annie Williamson de Montfredy, a daughter of Albert de Montfredy, who was a native of France and came to America with his father at the outbreak of the French revolution, the family home being established in New York. Five children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Johnson: Albert M., who is now practicing law in San Francisco; Josephine, the wife of A. R. Fink, cashier of the Earl Fruit Company, of California; Hiram W., who is practicing law with his brother in San Francisco; Mary, who died in 1900; and Mabel, the wife of Bruce L. Dray, a land attorney of Sacramento. The wife and mother passed away December 8, 1903. She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, being a great-granddaughter of General Philip Van Courtlandt of the continental army. She was a devoted wife and mother, and her many excellent qualities of heart and mind won her the warm friendship and esteem of those with whom she came in contact.
Though heavy demands have been made upon his time and attention through professional, political and fraternal associations Mr. Johnson has always found opportunity to enhance the welfare and happiness of his family, where his deepest interest centers, and to labor zealously for the advancement of the interests of his home city of Sacramento. His is a sturdy American character with a stalwart patriotism. He has a strong attachment for our free institutions, being ever willing to make personal sacrifices for their preservation. A man of sterm integrity and honesty of principles, he despises all unworthy or questionable means to secure success in any undertaking or for any purpose or to promote his own advancement in any direction whether political or otherwise. It is our duty to mark our appreciation of such a man, a man true in every relation of life, faithful to every trust, a statesman diligent in the service of his country and seeking only the public good.
Source: History of the New California Its Resources and People, Volume I
The Lewis Publishing Company - 1905
Edited by Leigh H. Irvine
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