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West Virginia native Vernon E. Johnson (May 22, 1880 – April 4, 1944) was best known for being the youngest Speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates. Johnson was born in Berkeley Springs, where he would later go on to own multiple businesses.

Johnson served six terms in the House of Delegates, beginning in 1911. Little is known about Johnson before this time, other than his service as Colonel of the West Virginia Militia. In 1915, the House elected him speaker at the age of 34. During this time, the Charleston Gazette mentioned how Johnson’s battle to election was met with “strong opposition” and that he had ties in “farming, banking, and insurance.” Johnson’s first term as speaker ended in 1917. He was reelected to that position in 1927, making him one of only three speakers to serve non-consecutive terms. During his second term as speaker, Johnson had major influence in legislation surrounding the construction of the State Capitol building, which took place between 1924-1932.

Beyond politics, Johnson had a large stake in various other endeavors, including becoming President of the Bank of Berkley Springs (now Citizens National Bank), operating Sunset Orchards in Morgan County, and owning Berkeley Springs Water Works. Johnson eventually became Chairman of the Game, Fish and Wildlife Division (now the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources) and the State Forestry Division, where he endorsed the construction of fire watchtowers across West Virginia.

In 1928, Johnson was anticipated to be the Republican candidate for governor, and was even endorsed by former Governor Henry Hatfield, as Hatfield was running for US Senate. However, due to health reasons, Johnson was forced to forego his candidacy. In 1931, under US President Herbert Hoover, Johnson became Collector of Internal Revenue for West Virginia. During that time, the Princeton Observer described Johnson variously as “a bank president” and “a farmer.”

Johnson died in Charleston. He was 64.

This Article was written by Stone Schaldenbrand

Last Revised on March 22, 2022


Cite This Article

Schaldenbrand, Stone "Vernon Johnson." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 22 March 2022. Web. 02 October 2022.

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