BC Premier #23 – Boss Johnson

So, here I am blogging about yet another boring Premier of the Province of British Columbia.  But never fear, the next guy on the list is W.A.C. Bennett!  Ole’ Wacky himself!  So just get through this one and next week I’ll have something less yawn-inducing for you to read about.

File:Byron Johnson.jpg Name Byron Ingemar Johnson
Born: December 10, 1890 in Victoria, BC
Died: January 12, 1964 in Victoria, BC
Party: coaltion of the Conservatives and the Liberals
Held Office: December 29, 1947 – August 1, 1952
  • born Björn Ingemar “Bjossi” Jönsson
  • known as “Boss,” which apparently was just coincidentally to him being the boss of the province – it was an anglicization of “Bjossi,” which is a diminutive of Björn
  • served in WWI
  • was a Mason
  • 1933: elected as a Liberal MLA in Victoria City
  • 1937: lost his seat, returned to the building supply business he shared with his brother (or, he quit in 1934, returned to politics in 1937 but wasn’t elected (not sure how you “return” to politics if you aren’t elected), depending on which source you believe)
  • WWII: put in charge of building Royal Canadian Air Force facilities in BC
  • 1945: elected as an MLA in New Westminster, served as a cabinet minister in the Liberal-Conservative coalition government under Hart
  • 1947: when Hart resigned, Johnson took over as leader and thus became the premier
  • as premier he did a bunch of stuff (e.g., introduced compulsory health care and a 3% sales tax to pay for it, appointing the first female speaker in the British Commonwealth, Nancy Hodges)
  • 1949: stayed premier as the Liberal-Conservative coalition won the largest popular vote in BC history
  • 1951: the Conservatives pull out of the coalition, collapsing Johnson’s government
  • 1952: defeated by the Social Credit Party (the predecessor to the current day BC So-Called Liberal Party) (and lost his own seat to the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), the predecessor party to the New Democratic Party (NDP)). This marked the end of the Liberal-Conservative coalition and the beginning of the two-party system we have to this day

In summary, we can thank Boss Johnson for our provincial health care, but blame him for two-party system.

Image credits: Accessed from Wikipedia. In the public domain. w00t!

References:

10 Replies to “BC Premier #23 – Boss Johnson”

  1. Hi Beth,

    In the spirit of the season of Giving & Getting, I have copied some of your posting about Deb’s wedgie …

    then added some stuff about Boss Johnson.

    Now I want to thank you — not only for the gift but also for the laughter it came with.

    I’m at The Legislature Raids,
    http://bctrialofbasi-virk.blogspot.com [I need a new name, but can’t think of an appropriate one … maybe Public Inquiry on Basi-Virk?]

    if you can find something there, to borrow.

    Merry Christmas … Happiest New Year! I love your blog.

  2. Hi Beth
    Byron Johnson was my great uncle, my grandmother Anna Dagmar Johnson Evans was his younger sister. He was a dynamic man, gave everything he had in anything he did and was far from blah. You neglected to mention just exactly why he became premier. The answer is that he was perhaps the only truly honest man in the entire assemblage of crooks known as the BC parliament. No other man could have held a coalition of opposites together, maybe no other man in all of Canada. His predecessor, Mr Hart was indeed a forgettable character, his successor, Mr Bennett I won’t say anything about him, he is revered by all :Loyal Canadians, if there is such a thing. I only knew him as a big gentle guy that would toss me in the air, catch and kiss me and gush “how’s my Billy- boy”. I never heard a bad word about him and loved him and my Aunt Kate with all my heart.
    As for your comments, It is real easy to try to be just as glib as you can when describing men like my uncle, but sometimes you let that get in the way of being honest, which is something he never did. He was perhaps the most honest man in the history of Canadian politics, the sad part of it all is that there are so very few left alive who can remember him and just how honest he was. I do, and will, but WTF, I’m 77 now, so maybe this will serve as one last footnote to his bio. Cheers, Bill Coale

  3. For Bill Coale:

    Hello Bill. Just stumbled across this blog, saw the connection betwixt Boss Johnson and yourself, and thought I would risk an attempt at contacting you perchance you or someone else in your family would be interested in the acquisition of some of your uncle’s memorabilia.

    I will abbreviate the story by simply telling you that my wife and I own your uncle’s rather substantial Brunswick pool table together with all of its various pieces of wall furniture. Your uncle sold his New Westminster home to my wife’s family when he moved to Victoria to assume the Premier’s office and the pool table was included in the transaction. When my wife eventually sold the house we took the pool table with us when we built our own home in Surrey.

    Regrettably, because I soon brought my business home, there was no longer any space for the table. So it has been stored in its disassembled state ever since.

    We will shortly be offering it for sale, so if you have any interest please call me at (604) 535-1666 and we can chat.

    Regards,
    Rob Krochenski

  4. Just thought to post this. My grandfather immigrated to Canada in 1950 from Hong Kong. As a new immigrant worker to Vancouver, my grandfather did not speak any English and worked in a Chinese restaurant. A restaurant which Boss Johnson frequented. Evidently Boss, took a liking to my grandfather, who saw he was very hard working and offered him a job in his household and a chance for a paid education to learn English. My grandfather knew that Johnson was only a “Minister” in the Government and did not actually know what his position was. For years, he talked about Mr. Johnson until eventually I just decided to search who he was as my grandfather wanted to know. My great grandfather told my grandfather to not work for Mr. Johnson (not knowing who he was) because tips were required from working the restaurant to support the family. And my grandfather diligently did what his father asked him to do. My grandfather later became a very successful restaurant owner in Edmonton Alberta. As of this writing, my grandfather is celebrating is 92 birthday. I showed him a picture of Boss Johnson who corroborated that is the man who offered a young humble Chinese immigrant a golden opportunity. My grandfather thinks back at Boss Johnson as the most pivotal person in his life. This is a shout out to any of Boss Johnson’s family members, that my grandfather thinks of Boss Johnson very fondly, and that he was glad to have found some information about him as it’s been nearly 70 years since he was premier of BC.

  5. Thanks for the kudos, Ryan, I am Boss Johnson’s grand nephew, his sister’s grandson. Knew him only from his visits to my family in Seattle and always looked forward to them, he was a very kind, gentle, and thoroughly likeable man, one to look up to in more ways than one. His grand- daughter Jill Johnson works for the US Embassy in Lima, I believe. There may be some relatives around Vancouver today, his oldest sister had two daughters and at least four granddaughters of which one was active in BC politics, last name is Russell, not sure about the facts as I have had no contact with anyone on that family branch since my grandmother passed away in the early 80s.

  6. Thanks for the reply William. My grandpa is just elated to have someone else out there remember him. It’s so long ago now, things like this only exist in my grandpa’s memory now, and the internet is very scarce on details.

    A few specifics, Boss Johnson came to the Bamboo Terrace in Vancouver every friday around 1952 and was very adamant to have my grandpa serve him. Boss put his arm around him and said he was working so hard and that Boss saw a lot of potential in my grandpa.

    My grandpa roughly recollects that Boss wanted some help looking after his 2 sons. My grandpa was 21 to 22 (he was born 1929) at the time, and Boss’s sons would have been about 11 to 14. Are the sons still around?

    The only picture I can find of Boss Johnson is here.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boss_Johnson

    Do you have any other pictures of him?

    1. He only had one son, Byron Jr., who passed away around 2003. He was a professor at San Jose State University for years and years but we were not all that close. His daughter Jill is the Consular Section Chief at the U.S. Ecuadorian embassy.

      1. All right that makes sense. So the Johnson family had 4 siblings. The older sister, Boss, the younger brother, and your grandma.

        I take it that you’re approximately 82 right? In theory Boss’s son should be about 80 now, so he passed away in his early 60s?

        In theory, your “uncle” was younger than you then. (Or first cousin one removed right?)

        The granddaughter would be your second cousin right?

    2. His “other son” may have been his brother John’s son, Johnny Jr., who spent a lot of time in New Westminster as a boy, he was about 3 or 4 years younger than Byron Jr. I don’t have any pictures of my Uncle, sorry.

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