Guide to the Harry M. Johnston Law Journal Collection (1891 – 1892) – History

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Harry M. Johnston, a native of Mississippi, belonged to the law firm of Johnston and Jones in Fresno, CA. Harry was born in Coldwater, De Soto County in 1865 where he lived on a Southern-style plantation. Harry received a Master’s degree from South Western Presbyterian University in Clarksville, Tennessee in 1888 and then after a year abroad in Europe he attended Columbia Law School in New York. In 1890, Harry traveled to California where he was admitted to the bar—it is said by his daughter Evelyn, that Harry passed the bar exam under Judge Logan who lent his name to Logan-berries. Harry eventually opened a law office in Santa Cruz, CA where he was city attorney for two years after which, in 1893, Harry moved to Fresno. In Fresno Harry became city attorney and opened Johnston and Jones. He was city attorney for four years, from 1908-1912 and served under Mayors L.O. Stephens and Truman Harl.


Eventually, Harry wed Laura M. Barksdale of Arkansas and had three children: William B, Harry M. Jr. and Evelyn S (donor of this collection). Harry was a Presbyterian and member of the First Presbyterian Church of Fresno as well as Lodge No. 162 and No.247 Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks, and was a Past Council Commander of the Woodmen of the World. He was also a member of the Sequoia Club and the Masons. Harry Johnston passed away in 1942 and was survived by his wife, daughter, two sons, two brothers, and two grandchildren. Harry Johnston’s work for the city of Fresno was recognized when after his passing, Legislative Commissioner Glenn Devore passed a motion to adopt a resolution that honored Johnston’s memory in “’appreciation of his fine work in the formative period of our present charter government’” (qtd. From Devore in The Fresno Bee The Republican 10/1/ 1942).According to the Fresno Bee, Johnston was first city attorney to operate under the present charter set forth by Fresno which was set in 1921 (sources: Vandor, Paul E. Los Angeles: Historic Record Co., 1919 and The Fresno Bee Republican “Harry M. Johnston, Former City Attorney, Dies” 10/1/1942).