Attorney Louis Johnson died in Washington, D.C., on April 24, 1966, at age 75. The native of Roanoke, Virginia, had spent most of his life in Clarksburg before moving to Washington.
In 1913, Johnson co-founded the law firm that would become Steptoe and Johnson, which remains one of the leading legal practices in West Virginia. After serving in World War I, he helped found the American Legion and became its national commander in 1932.
In 1936, Johnson campaigned for President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s reelection. In return, the president named him assistant secretary of war. In his three years in the post, Johnson pushed to build up the U.S. military in preparation for World War II.
Then, in the 1948 election, Johnson chaired President Harry Truman’s finance committee, which helped engineer Truman’s surprise victory over Republican Thomas Dewey. Truman appointed Johnson as secretary of defense in 1949, but Johnson clashed with other cabinet members and tried to undermine Secretary of State Dean Acheson, leading an infuriated Truman to fire Johnson in 1950.
Today, the Veterans Administration medical center in Clarksburg is named for Louis Johnson.