Monday, October 1, 2012

Will the Real Dr. Johnson Please Stand Up?

ca 1876-1886, postcard

Library caption of second photo: Small color picture of Dr. Johnson; on back of frame (removed): "This photo of Dr. Harvey Johnson was the property of Mrs. Jennie Larkin Bishop, one of Whitworth's alumnae. Presented now to the Harvey Johnson Society by her daughter, Mrs. Maude Bishop Williams, one of the student body of Whitworth and a member of Harry (sic) Johnson Society, with best wishes for the Society and in loving memory of her mother. 1922"
Both of these photographs are identified as H.F. Johnson, and are included in the local library's Whitworth College Archives.  

I must be missing something here -- to my eye, the men do not resemble each other and the second photo, based on the style of clothing, implies to me a much earlier era than 1867.  Also, the second reference is to a Harry in the caption, but the handwriting appears to say Harvey.

Contemporary Brookhavenites might be aware that Dr. H. F. Johnson and Katie McGrath Johnson were the paternal grandparents of Phyllis Johnson Spearman, a much beloved high school educator and long-time Spanish teacher who still makes her home in Brookhaven.

The burning question is, if I am not totally off my beam about the differences in appearance, which picture is the correct one of THE Dr. H. F. Johnson? 

According to the library's account of the history of the college: "Dr. Harvey F. Johnson, one of Whitworth College’s most influential presidents, took office in 1867. Born in North Carolina and educated at Emory and Henry in Virginia and Centenary College in Louisiana, Johnson had been a Confederate officer and chaplain. 

"His presidency saw a growth in student population to 200, emergence from serious debt, and expenditure of $45,000 on new buildings. This construction included Calisthenics Hall (auditorium and gymnasium) in 1869, Margaret Hall (dormitory with steam heat and water) in 1878, Johnston Institute in 1884, and renovation of Whitworth Hall to facilitate its use as dining hall, infirmary, faculty offices, and dormitory space.

"Among the faculty during this period was G.R. Eckhard, a graduate of the Berlin Conservatory. One of his piano students, Roberta Bowen, was invited to perform at the 1882 World’s Fair in Chicago. Bowen later chaired the Whitworth Voice Department.

"Johnson died of Yellow Fever in 1886, and Lewis T. Fitzhugh replaced him as president. Fitzhugh’s tenure in office is best remembered for a highly successful music conservatory program led by Professor William Hennings. Whitworth had 27 pianos and 24 rooms for musical instruction. In 1893, Fitzhugh left to found Belhaven College in Jackson."
Information clarifying what I see as a discrepancy in photo likeness is welcomed.  Please reply either here on via my Facebook page, and I will gladly update or correct. 


  1. Will the real Dr. Johnson please speak or stand up, for sure! I may have muddied the water when I identified Katie McGrath Johnson and her husband, Dr. John Harvey (J.H.) Johnson who was a medical doctor. He was the son of the Whitworth president, Dr.(of Divinity) Harvey F. Johnson, and his wife, Margaret Bates Johnson. (I assume that Margaret Hall was named for her.) Dr. Johnson the younger came back to Brookhaven around 1890 to practice medicine and was associated with drugstore owner, C.E. Grafton. He opened Brookhaven's first hospital with his friend and partner, Dr. D.W. Jones. Much of this info was obtained from Durr Walker's book on Lincoln County. Phyllis J. Spearman is the granddaughter of Dr. John H. Johnson and Katie McGrath Johnson and the great-granddaughter of the Whitworth President, Dr. Harvey F. Johnson. I realize this does not help with today's photo identification problem. I am wondering if Phyllis or any of her daughters reads Sippiana?

  2. One more comment: see 9/24/12 Sippiana post for photo of Dr. H. F. Johnson on the cover of The Leader special magazine edition-- prominent citizens past and present (published February 19, 1903)

  3. Thanks, Bettie, I'm going to have to sit down and sort this one out on a quiet weekend. Initials can get very confusing...

  4. I believe that John H Williams is my grandfather I would love to see more of his work if possible! is my email address any pics of him would be greatly appreciated