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CRA059 -- R.O. Johnson Papers


0.50 Linear Feet
June 1988


Property rights in the collection are held by the Calumet Regional Archives; literary rights are dedicated to the public. There are no restrictions on access to the collection.

Linear feet of shelf space: 0.5 linear feet
Number of containers: 2 boxes
Calumet Regional Archives Collection 059

Arranged and Described by: Eileen Cvitkovich
Date: June 1988

Scope and Content

The materials on this collection span the years 1913 to 1935, and contain some interesting political material, both local and national. These include an address given in 1933 by former U.S. Senator James E. Watson, Indiana State Convention information, as well as a 1932 Republican Party campaign text-book. The photographic series includes very interesting photographs of R.0. Johnson, Charles Evans Hughes, W.P. Patterson, and the Reverend Jean B. deville, founder of Gary-Alerding Settlement House. There are photos of a construction site, perhaps taken during the building boom Gary experienced during the 1920's. Also included are some unique proclamations and resolutions made by Johnson, while Mayor of Gary. Of special interest is the proclamation containing his goal to eliminate evil in Gary's vice district. The records contained within this collection lack real insight into the years that Johnson spent as Mayor of Gary, time spent in prison, and Johnson's life after his last term of office.

Historical Sketch

Born in Adams County in 1872, Roswell 0. Johnson was a realtor and former Mayor of the City of Gary, Indiana. Johnson was elected to the mayoral office in 1913, and later re-elected Gary Mayor in 1921, as well as in 1929 on the Republican ticket. Prior to coming to Gary, Johnson had taught school in Adams County, and later received an L.L.B. degree from the Indiana Law School at Indianapolis. In 1900, President McKinley appointed Johnson the Deputy U.S. Collector of Customs in the Arizona Territory. He served in this capacity from 1900 to 1902, and was then elected judge in Douglas, Arizona, serving a three-year term.

Johnson came to Gary in 1909 from Kendallville, where he practiced law. He entered the realty business here, and was President of the Indiana Sales Company. During Johnson's first term as Mayor, the first Gary park site, 15 acres along the lakefront was purchased. In 1914, William P. Gleason was appointed President of the Gary Park Board, beginning the development of a planned park system. Despite the Mayor's friendly attitude toward U.S. Steel officials, they were upset by Johnson's indifference to the prevalence of prostitution and gambling in Gary. As a result, Johnson was defeated in the 1917 mayoral race by William Hodges, a former city attorney.

Johnson's second term of office (1922-1925) was rocked by prohibition scandals, and subsequently Johnson was among those indicted and arrested by Federal authorities for conspiracy to violate the national prohibition laws. In March, 1923, Johnson was convicted in the Federal District Court in Indianapolis. Mayor Johnson received the heaviest sentence, a fine of $2,000 plus 18 months in the Atlanta penitentiary. He left for Atlanta in April, 1925, to serve his term; however, he was released from prison in November, 1925, having served one third of his original sentence. Johnson received a presidential pardon from Calvin Coolidge in March, 1929, which restored to him the privileges of a U.S. citizen. Shortly thereafter, a Superior Court Judge in East Chicago ruled that Johnson was legally eligible to hold public office.

R.0. Johnson won the Republican nomination for Mayor of Gary, and was elected by a substantial majority in November, 1929. The strength of the Republican party had not been weakened by the imprisonment of Johnson. "R.0." was unsuccessful in two later mayoral election attempts in 1934 and in 1938. Roswell O. Johnson died June 19, 1938 at the age of sixty six. He is buried in a family plot in Kendallville.

Box File Description
1 1 Correspondence, General, R.O. Johnson, (1925, 1929, 1936, n.d.)
2 Newspaper Clippings, R.O. Johnson, (1922, 1930, n.d.)
3 Campaign Materials, R.O. Johnson, (1913, 1921)
4 Proclamations and Resolutions, R.O. Johnson, (1924, 1930, 1934, n.d.)
5 Advertisement, Featuring R.O. Johnson, (March 6, 1914)
6 List, Contributions From Gary Police Department, R.O. Johnson Retirement, (n.d.)
7 Various, R.O. Johnson, (1905, 1916, 1938, n.d.)
8 Program, Inauguration of Gary City Officials, (1922)
9 Annual Report, City of Gary, (1922-24, 1927, 1930, 1935)
10 Magazine, "International Pictorial Police Journal", Featured Article on Gary, Indiana (June, 1931)
11 Program, The Municipal League of Indiana, 1932
12 List, Addresses of Gary Polling Places, (n.d.)
13 Visitor's Guest Pass, City of Gary, (n.d.)
14 Lists, U.S. Steel Company Officials, (n.d.)
15 Directory, Indiana Senate, (1927)
16 Booklet, Republican Handbook, Lake County, IN., (1932)
17 Booklet, Republican Campaign Text-Book, (1932)
18 Address, "The Vital Importance of the Republican Party to the Nation," Hon. James E. Watson, (1933)
19 Booklet, Program and Delegate List, Indiana Republican State Convention, (June 5, 1934)
20 Booklet, Packet History of the U.S. Flag, (n.d.)

Box File Description
2 12 Map, Gary Wards and Precincts, (1922)
13 Placard, R.0. Johnson, (n.d.)

Drawer Folder Description
1 Chart - Tabulation of Votes, Indiana General Election, (Nov. 1924)
Annual Report - City of Gary (1930)

Subject Tracings

  • deVille, Jean B., Reverend
  • Emerson High School
  • Gary
  • Gary Fire Department
  • Gary Police Department
  • Patterson, W.P.
  • Politics
  • United States Steel Corporation