WHO WERE THEY ? --# 53 -- Lucius E. Johnson - N&W

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Tue Sep 25 12:26:00 EDT 2018

On Mon, Sep 24, 2018, abram wrote:

> JOHNSON, LUCIUS E., President Norfolk & Western Ry in 1913.  Office
> Roanoke, Va.

This is from the Virginia Tech history site (
section list of members of the Board of Visitors. Lucius E. Johnson served
on the board of visitors from 1908 to 1912 and was rector from 1910 to 1912.

Bruce in Blacksburg

The following is from the Bulletin of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute,
Vol. I, No. 4, October, 1908, pp. 10-12.

New Members Of The Board Of Visitors
(Extract from Men of Mark of Virginia, Vol. I.)

Lucius E. Johnson, railroad president, was born in Aurora, Illinois, April
13, 1846, and is the son of John Spencer and Eliza Johnson. His father was
a blacksmith and veterinary surgeon, the typical "village blacksmith,"
honest, strong and upright. Mrs. Eliza Johnson was a noble Christian woman,
intelligent, shrewd, practical, and exerted a strong influence over her son
both intellectually and morally.

Lucius Johnson was sent to the public free schools of his native town.
There he acquired a "practical English education," as the phrase goes, and
this has served him in good stead in his office work as a railroad manager
and president. In boyhood and youth, Mr. Johnson was blessed with good
health, due partly to playing and working and partly to the vigor of his
parents. While at school, he spent some of his spare time reading history
and books on mechanical subjects. He rested his mind at times by reading
good novels. "Honest study, good playing, and fondness for work," he says,
helps to account for his first successes.

His first strong impulse in life was the necessity of earning a livelihood.
After leaving the public school of Aurora, Ill., he entered the railroad
service as a brakeman. Then he served as fireman and as a locomotive
engineer. In these positions, he did his duty and did it every day, and,
looking back over his successful life, he finds that the secret of his
success is persistent devotion to his work, and he believes that this same
persistence will generally bring success. For some years, Mr. Johnson was a
master mechanic at Aurora, Ill. In 1886, he was made superintendent of the
St. Louis division of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy R. R. In December,
1888, he returned to Aurora as superintendent of the Chicago division of
the same road. In 1890, he was asked to take the superintendency of the
Montana Central Railroad, with headquarters at Helena, Montana. In less
than three years, he was made superintendent of the Michigan division of
the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railroad, and in July, 1897, became
general superintendent of the Norfolk and Western Railway. In two years, he
was made vice-president and general manager of the whole Norfolk and
Western system. On the 30th of September, 1903, Lucius E. Johnson was
elected to the presidency of the Norfolk and Western Railway, a position
which he is now filling with conspicuous ability.

The newspapers of October 1, 1903, in announcing Mr. Johnson's election,
used their largest headlines. "Started as Fireman," said one paper, in
enormous type. If they had asked Mr. Johnson to solve the mystery, he might
well have said, "There is no mystery, only natural law in the moral world;"
persistent devotion to his duty day by day placed him in his high position.

Commenting editorially, one of our dailies said: "A striking example of the
opportunity afforded young men of ability, industry and determination, to
rise in this country to the highest positions of trust and responsibility,
is forcibly exhibited in the recent election of Mr. L. E. Johnson to be
president of the Norfolk and Western Railway Corporation." Another paper
said: "In the front rank of the high railroad officials of the world must
be enrolled Mr. Lucius E. Johnson, the new president of the Norfolk and
Western Railway. But a few years ago he wore the greasy overalls of a
locomotive fireman of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad* * * *
Mr. Johnson is amiable, just, unselfish and stern, and to these qualities,
combined with his marvelous insight into human nature and his tremendous
capacity for work without waste, has been due his constant advance in
railroad circles."

Mr. Johnson belongs to the Masonic order, and to social clubs in
Cincinnati, Roanoke and Norfolk. In these, he takes relaxation from the
strenuous duties of his office. Further pleasure he derives from baseball,
dogs and horses.

Mr. Johnson has patented a railway scoop-car and a signal lamp fixture,
both of which are used by the railroads of the country. In political
preference, Mr. Johnson is a Democrat, what was known as "Gold Democrat,"
which we may say to the young reader, means that he did not endorse the
doctrine of "free silver at a ratio of 16 to 1," and did not favor the
election of W. J. Bryan to the presidency.

On April 10, 1869, Mr. Johnson married Miss Ella Parker. They have had five
children, only two of whom are now living. He and his family reside at 204
Mountain Avenue, Roanoke, Virginia.


Johnson retired from the railroad presidency and became chairman of the
board of directors in the mid teens. He retired from that position on
January 1, 1921. He died at the age of 74 on February 9, 1921, in Deland,
Florida, after a brief illness. His body was returned to Roanoke for
funeral services, then transported to his former hometown of Aurora,
Illinois, for burial. He was survived by his widow, two sons, George P.
Johnson of Pittsburgh, Pa., and Edward M. Johnson of Roanoke.
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