Tom L. Johnson

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"Tom Loftin Johnson" redirects here. For the American painter, see Tom Loftin Johnson (artist).
Tom L. Johnson
Mayor of Cleveland, Ohio
In office
Preceded by John H. Farley
Succeeded by Herman C. Baehr
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Ohio's 21st district
In office
March 4, 1891 – March 3, 1895
Preceded by Theodore E. Burton
Succeeded by Theodore E. Burton
Personal details
Born Tom Loftin Johnson
(1854-07-18)July 18, 1854
Georgetown, Kentucky
Died April 10, 1911(1911-04-10) (aged 56)
Cleveland, Ohio
Political party Democratic
Profession Politician

Thomas Loftin Johnson (July 18, 1854 – April 10, 1911), better known as Tom L. Johnson, was an American politician of the Democratic Party from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He headed relief efforts after the Johnstown, Pennsylvania floods of 1889, was a U.S. Representative from 1891–1895 and the 35th mayor of Cleveland, Ohio between 1901 and 1909. In 1903, he was the Democratic nominee for Governor of Ohio.


Johnson was born into a wealthy family of Georgetown, Kentucky. His early formal education was very limited. Johnson's first employment was with a street-railway company, where he rapidly rose to positions of responsibility. He invented a pay-box for trolleys and became wealthy from licensing the patent. He began investing in street railways in Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Detroit. He made these lines profitable by the introduction of through fares and transfers. Johnson then became principal owner and president of the Detroit City Railways after leaving Congress in 1895. Later he sold his stake in DCR in 1899 and moved to Cleveland to reenter politics.

Politics and philosophy[edit]

Johnson was an advocate of Henry George's philosophy of a single tax on land values and other fruits of nature. Today, a statue of Johnson stands in Cleveland's Public Square depicting him holding Henry George's book, "Progress and Poverty."

Though opposed to the free coinage of silver, he supported Bryan in 1896 and 1900, and the state convention which he controlled unanimously endorsed the Kansas City platform. He also advocated public ownership of public utilities. He retired from public service in 1910.


Today, Johnson is considered a great influence in the progressive movement in the United States that took place in the early 20th century. Tom Johnson advanced a program of lower streetcar fares, public baths, milk and meat inspection standards, and an expanded park system. These reforms, along with his goal to make government more efficient, granted him great adulation among his constituents.


According to the inscription on a statue of Johnson in Cleveland, the apologist for the Soviet Union Lincoln Steffens called him "The best Mayor of the best-governed city in the United States."

In The American Mayor: The Best and Worst Big-City Leaders (Penn State Press, 1999), Melvin G. Holli, in consultation with a panel of experts, placed Johnson among the ten best, next to Fiorello H. La Guardia of New York City.


His brother, Albert, was the financial backer and organizer of the Players League, a one-year experimental major baseball league which sought to treat players as partners, rather than laborers.

See also[edit]



External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
John H. Farley
Mayor of Cleveland
Succeeded by
Herman C. Baehr
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Theodore E. Burton
U.S. Representative from Ohio's 21st Congressional District
Succeeded by
Theodore E. Burton
Party political offices
Preceded by
James Kilbourne
Democratic Party nominee for Governor of Ohio
Succeeded by
John M. Pattison