JOHNSON, Sir William Elliot (1862-1932)


JOHNSON, Sir William Elliot (1862-1932)
politician
was born at Newcastle-on-Tyne, on 10 April 1862, the son of a scene-painter. He ran away from home at 13, worked in the telegraph office at London, and afterwards assisted his father scene-painting at Covent Garden theatre. He was then apprenticed on a sailing-ship and after obtaining his second mate's certificate, settled in Sydney in 1883. He took much interest in the free-trade movement and was also a follower of Henry George. In December 1903 he was elected a member of the federal house of representatives for Lang, and held the seat until he was defeated at the general election in 1928. He was for some years whip and secretary to the Liberal party and was deputy-chairman of committees. He took much interest in the selection of the site for the federal capital, and nominated the Yass-Canberra site which was eventually chosen. In 1911 he was one of the Australian parliamentary representatives at the coronation of King George V. He was elected speaker of the house of representatives in 1913 and held this position until after the 1914 election. He was again speaker from June 1917 to February 1923 when W. A. Watt was chosen for the position. After his defeat at the 1928 election Johnson retired from politics. He died at Geelong, Victoria, on 8 December 1932. He married, but his wife died before him. He was survived by a daughter. He was created K.C.M.G. in 1920.
Johnson was a man of great industry who made it his business to be thoroughly acquainted with the subjects under debate. He was particularly interested in the question of immigration. As speaker he was quietly dignified, courteous and efficient. In private life his hobby was painting and etching. A set of his etchings is at the national library, Canberra.
The Sydney Morning Herald, 9 December 1932; The Age, Melbourne, 9 December 1932; Biographical Handbook and Record of Elections, Parliament of the Commonwealth, 1930.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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