James S. Johnston

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The Right Reverend
James Steptoe Johnston
The Rt. Rev. James S. Johnston.jpg
Bishop Johnston
Province The Episcopal Church
Diocese West Texas
Installed 1888
Term ended 1916
Predecessor Robert W.B. Elliott (as Bishop of the Missionary District of West Texas)
Successor William Theodotus Capers
Ordination 1871 as priest
Personal details
Born 1843
Church Hill, Mississippi
Died 1924
San Antonio, Texas
Buried St Mark's Episcopal Church, San Antonio, Texas
Spouse Mary M. Johnston
Children 6
Alma mater University of Virginia

James Steptoe Johnston (June 9, 1843–November 4, 1924) was an American Confederate veteran, preacher and educator. He served as a Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America. He was the last bishop of the missionary district of west Texas and the first bishop of the Diocese of West Texas. He was also the founder of TMI — The Episcopal School of Texas, a private school in San Antonio, Texas.


Early life[edit]

James Steptoe Johnston was born in 1843 in Church Hill, Jefferson County, Mississippi.[1] He was the son of a local attorney and cotton planter. He was educated at Oakland College in Lorman, Mississippi.[1] He attended the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia, but left after one year to enlist in the Confederate States Army. He was commissioned as a lieutenant in the Cavalry Corps, Army of Northern Virginia in 1862. He saw action at the Second Battle of Bull Run and at Antietam before being captured by Union forces and spending one year as a prisoner of war. After the war, he studied law for a time and practiced as an attorney until 1867, and then began to read for the priesthood. He was ordained to diaconate in 1869 and to the priesthood in 1871 and served as a parish priest in Mississippi, Kentucky and Alabama. In 1888, he was elected as the second bishop of the missionary district of west Texas and was awarded a Doctorate of Divinity from the University of the South in the same year.


The early years of Johnston's episcopate were difficult. He was the sole bishop for an area of some 100,000 square miles (260,000 km2), most of which was only accessibly on horseback or by stage coach. The area was also experiencing severe economic difficulties due to a prolonged drought. He particularly stressed the need for an educated élite in such an environment, and to this end founded the West Texas School for Boys (now TMI — The Episcopal School of Texas) to provide a classical and Christian education for young men in the area. Johnston raised money for the school from wealthy Episcopalians on the Eastern Seaboard.

Johnston was also responsible for the integration of the district, and admitted a congregation of African-Americans who had previously been affiliated with the Methodist Church. A liberal with moderate Tractarian influences, Johnston was committed to dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church (by far the largest religious group in Southern and Western Texas) and wrote on several occasions to Vatican expressing his desire for Christian unity. In 1904, West Texas became a self-supporting diocese with Johnston as its first bishop. Johnston retired in 1916, having served for twenty-eight years as a bishop.


He died in 1924.