Politician and judge Herschel Johnson was born in Burke County, Georgia on September 18, 1812. Graduating from the University of Georgia in 1834, he subsequently read law and was admitted to the bar in Augusta before year’s end. There, and later in Louisville and Milledgeville, Johnson had a successful law career—though also becoming active in politics. When Georgia Senator Walter Colquitt resigned his seat in Congress in 1848, Gov. George Towns appointed Johnson to serve the remaining year in Colquitt’s term. In 1849, the Georgia General Assembly elected Johnson to serve a superior court judge for the Ocmulgee circuit. Four years later, Johnson was elected governor, and reelected in 1855. At the end of his second term, Johnson temporarily retired from politics and returned to his plantation in Jefferson County. In 1858, the General Assembly honored Johnson by naming a new county in his honor.
In 1860, Johnson was persuaded to run as the vice presidential running mate of Democratic presidential candidate Stephen Douglas. After their loss to Republican Abraham Lincoln, Johnson unsuccessfully opposed Georgia’s secession. Nevertheless, in 1862, the General Assembly elected him to represent Georgia in the Confederate Senate.
After the war, the legislature again elected Johnson to serve as a superior court judge, a post he held until his death on August 16, 1880.