William Agnew Johnston

HON. WILLIAM AGNEW JOHNSTON, whose long and notable service on the Kansas Supreme Bench is known to all, has been a resident of Kansas since 1872.

He was born at Oxford, Ontario, Canada, July 24, 1848, a son of Mathew and Jane (Agnew) Johnston. His father, of Scotch-Irish stock, was born near Edinburgh, Scotland. A brother of Mathew at one time served as a judge of the Courts of Edinburgh. Jane Agnew was born in Belfast, Ireland.

Judge Johnston acquired his early education in the common schools and at the age of sixteen came to the United States and for a time was a student in an academy in Illinois. After that he taught school three years in Missouri and studied law in the intervals of this work. Admitted to the bar in 1872, he began practice at Minneapolis, Kansas, and continued actively in practice until his elevation to the bench.

In former years Judge Johnston took an active part in republican politics. He was a member of the House of Representatives in 1878 and was elected to the Senate in 1876. In 1879 he was appointed assistant United States attorney for Kansas, and from 1880 to 1884 served as attorney general of the state. This was during two terms, having been re-elected in 1882. Judge Johnston became an associate justice of the Supreme Court to fill the unexpired term of Judge Brewer. He was elected for a full term in 1888, and since then has been regularly re-elected at each six year interval. It is said that no one has ever contested an election with Judge Johnston since his first term, and in 1900 he was renominated by acclamation. On January 10, 1903, he became chief justice, and is now in his fifteenth consecutive year of service in that dignified office. Judge Johnston was married in 1875 to Lucy Brown. Mrs. W. A. Johnston is one of Kansas' most distinguished women.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed 1997.
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