Biography of Richard Z. Johnson
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Perhaps there is no part of this history of more general interest than the record of the bar. It is well known that the peace, prosperity and well-being of every community depend upon the wise interpretation of the laws, as well as upon their judicious framing, and there-fore the records of the various persons who have at various times made up the bar will form an important part of this work. A well known jurist of Illinois said, “In the American state the great and good lawyer must always be prominent, for he is one of the forces that move and control society. Public confidence has generally been reposed in the legal profession. It has ever been the defender of popular rights, the champion of freedom regulated by law, the firm support of good government. In the times of danger it has stood like a rock and breasted the mad passions of the hour and finally resisted tumult and faction. No political preferment, no mere place, can add to the power or increase the honor which belongs to the pure and educated lawyer. Richard Z. Johnson, of Boise, is one who has been honored by and is an honor to the legal fraternity of Idaho. He stands today prominent among the leading members of the bar of the state, a position which he has attained through marked ability.
A native of Akron, Ohio, he was born May 21, 1837, and is descended from ancestors who were early settlers of New England. On both the paternal and maternal sides representatives of the families were found among the “minute men” who fought under Generals Putnam and Stark in the war of the Revolution. Harvey H. Johnson, the father of our subject, was born in Rutland, Vermont, where his people had resided for many years. He studied law, became a prominent attorney and subsequently removed to Akron, Ohio, at once taking an active part in the affairs of that city. He served as its first postmaster, was for a number of years its mayor, and represented the old fourteenth district of Ohio in the national congress. He married Miss Calista F. Munger, also a native of Rutland, Vermont, and to them were born six children. The father departed this life in 1896, at the advanced age of eighty-eight years, and the mother died at the age of fifty-five. They were Congregationalists in their religious faith and were very highly esteemed people.
Richard Z. Johnson is the eldest of the family. He was educated in the schools of Ohio and New York, and pursued his professional course in the Law Department of Yale College, where he was graduated in the class of 1859. In St. Paul, Minnesota, he was admitted to the bar and began practice in Winona, that state, where he remained for five years, during which time he served for two terms as city attorney. Subsequently he removed to Virginia City, Nevada, and thence to Silver City, Owyhee County, Idaho, where he practiced for fourteen years with excellent success. In December 1878, he came to Boise, where he has since made his home. His law practice is large and remunerative, and has connected him with the most important litigation heard in the courts of his district through the past two decades. He has won for himself very favorable criticism for the careful and systematic methods which he has followed. He has remarkable powers of concentration and application, and his retentive mind has often excited the surprise of his professional colleagues. As an orator he stands high, especially in the discussion of legal matters before the court, where his comprehensive knowledge of the law is manifest and his application of legal principles demonstrates the wide range of his professional acquirements. The utmost care and precision characterize his preparation of a case and have made him one of the most successful attorneys in Boise.
Mr. Johnson has aided largely in shaping the public policy of his city and state, and his keen discernment and study of the public needs have made his efforts in this direction very valuable. He was a member of the territorial council from 1880 until 1882 has been a member of the city council, was attorney general of Idaho for two terms, and was one of the commissioners who compiled the revised statutes of the state, in 1878. He has ever been deeply concerned in the welfare and progress of the city, especially along educational lines, and has done much for the advancement of the schools of Boise. He was the author, and secured the passage, of the law creating the independent school district of Boise, which measure has contributed so largely to the splendid school system of the city. For fifteen years he was a member of the board of education and actively cooperated in every movement for the real good and up building of the schools. Heavy demands are made upon his time by his professional duties, but he never neglects an opportunity to advance the welfare of his fellow men through public measures. His political support is given the Democracy.
The material interests of Boise have also been largely promoted by Mr. Johnson, who soon after coming to the city made extensive investments in real estate. He is now the owner of much valuable property, which he has greatly improved, erecting many pleasant and attractive residences, which he rents to a good class of tenants. He also built a large brick office building, where he is located in the practice of his profession as the senior partner of the firm of Johnson & Johnson. He has the largest private law library in the state, and has deservedly attained an eminence at the bar reached by few. He is president of the Idaho State Bar Association.