Richard Mentor Johnson Biography

(Vice President of the United States (1837-41))

Birthday: October 17, 1780 (Libra)

Born In: Louisville, Kentucky, United States

Richard M. Johnson was an American politician who served as the ninth Vice President of United States; he was in the office from 1837 and 1841, in the administration of President Martin Van Buren. Born in Kentucky, Johnson, after finishing his education, was admitted to the bar and afterwards gravitated into politics. Gradually, Johnson rose to prominence in the state politics as a Jeffersonian Republican and was appointed to the Kentucky legislature. Subsequently, he served in the U.S. House of Representatives and later commanded a regiment of Kentucky riflemen in the War of 1812, serving in the Canadian campaign. In 1819, Johnson resigned from the House and was appointed the United States Senator, a capacity in which he served until 1829. Thereafter, he again became a member of the U.S. Congress,where he supported President Jackson's administration and pushed the bill to abolish punishment for debt.In 1836, with much support from Jackson, Johnson was nominated for Vice President on the Democratic ticket with Martin Van Buren. After none of the vice presidential candidates received a majority of the electoral vote, the election was decided by the U.S. Senate, which gave the office to Johnson under the provisions of the Twelfth Amendment. At the end of his term, Johnson was refused re-nomination by the Democrats and tried to return to public office but was defeated.Later, he was re-elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives but died two weeks into the office due to stroke
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Richard M. Johnson

Died At Age: 70


Spouse/Ex-: Julia Chinn

siblings: James Johnson, John Telemachus Johnson

Vice Presidents Political Leaders

political ideology: Political party - Democratic-Republican, Democratic

Died on: November 19, 1850

place of death: Frankfort, Kentucky, United States

Cause of Death: Stroke

Notable Alumni: Transylvania University

U.S. State: Kentucky

City: Louisville, Kentucky

More Facts

education: Transylvania University

Childhood & Early Life
Richard Mentor Johnson was born on October 17, 1780, in Beargrass, near present-day Louisville, Kentucky, U.S.He was the fifth of eleven children born to Robert Johnson, a land surveyor, and his wife, Jemima Suggett, a heroic women.
Since there were no schools on the frontier, Richard started his formal education at the age of 15. He attended Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, and later studied law as an apprentice of George Nicholas and James Brown.
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In 1802, Johnson was admitted to the Kentucky bar and subsequently established his own legal practice.Later, he owned a retail store and pursued a number of business ventures with his brothers.
In 1804, Richard Johnson was elected to represent Scott County in the Kentucky House of Representatives and served on the Committee on Courts of Justice. During his term, Johnson promoted law to protect settlers from land speculators.
In 1807, Johnson was elected as a Democratic-Republican to the U.S. House of Representatives and represented Kentucky's 4th district, serving until 1813. He served as the Chairman of the Committee on Claims during the 11th U.S. Congress.
Subsequently, he was re-elected and became a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Kentucky's 3rd district, a capacity in which he served from 1813 to 1819. Therefore, Johnson served six consecutive terms, between 1807 and 1819.
In December 1819, he resigned his post in the state legislature and was elected the United States Senator from Kentucky, where he served until March 1829. Johnson served as chairman of the Committee on Post Office and Post Roads in the 19th and 20th Congresses.
After failing in his bid for Senatorial re-election, Johnson returned to the House in 1829 and served as a member of U.S. House of Representatives from Kentucky's 5th District, until 1833. Thereafter, he represented Kentucky’s 13th District as a U.S. Congressman,between 1833 and 1837.
In 1836, Johnson was nominated for vice presidency on the Democratic ticket as President Martin Van Buren’s running mate. In the elections, for the first time in American history, the Electoral College could not agree among the four vice presidential candidates. As a result, Johnson became the only Vice President selected by the Senate under the rules of the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution.
In March 1837, Johnson was inaugurated at the office of the Vice President of United States, serving until March 1841.
In the elections of 1840, the Democratic National Convention refused to nominate anyone for the post of vice president. Therefore, Van Buren and Johnson were defeated by the corresponding Whig candidates.

Upon finishing his term, Johnson returned to Kentucky and again represented Scott County in the Kentucky House from 1841 to 1843.
In 1850, he was re-elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives, where he served for two weeks until his death.
Major Works
In the War of 1812, he served as the commander of a regiment of Kentucky riflemen, where he served in the Canadian campaign under William Henry Harrison. Johnson fought in the ‘Battle of the Thames’ and was among one of 14 military officers who were presented a sword by an act of Congress.
After the war, Johnson worked towards issuance of laws to secure pensions for widows and orphans, and to provide financial support for internal improvements in the West. As member of the U.S. House of the Representatives, his opposition to re-chartering the First Bank of the United States gained him national attention.
Personal Life & Legacy
Upon his father’s death, Johnson inherited an octoroon slave named Julia Chinn and got involved in a relationship with her. The couple was blessed with two daughters but Johnson and Chinn were prohibited from marrying because Chinn was a slave.
After Chinn’s death in the summer of 1833, Johnson began a relationship with another family slave and later also got involved with her sister, also a slave.
Richard Johnson died on November 19, 1850, in Frankfort, Kentucky, due to a heart attack, at the age of 70. He was buried in the Frankfort Cemetery, in Frankfort, Kentucky.

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