Rienzi Melville Johnston, newspaper editor, son of Freeman W. and Mary J. (Russell) Johnston, was born at Sandersville, Georgia, on September 9, 1849 (some sources say 1850). Early in his life he began work in a print shop, and at the age of twelve he became a drummer in the Confederate Army (1862–63). After discharge he reenlisted in 1864 and served until the end of the war, when he returned to newspaper work. In the early 1870s he was city editor of the Savannah Morning News. He traveled to Texas in 1878 to edit the Crockett Patron. After a year he edited the Corsicana Observer and established the Independent there. In 1880 he moved to Austin, where he was associated with the Austin Statesman (see AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN). The Houston Post secured his service as correspondent to cover the state capital. Johnston was chosen editor-in-chief of the reorganized Houston paper in 1885, and later he became president of the Houston Printing Company. As an editorial writer he was quoted by the press throughout many states. For two years he was first vice president of the Associated Press. Johnston was one of the leaders of the Democratic party in the South. He declined the nomination for lieutenant governor of Texas in 1898. From 1900 to 1912 he was a member of the Democratic National Committee. Early in 1913 Governor Oscar B. Colquitt appointed him United States senator to fill the unexpired term of Joseph W. Bailey. Johnston served from January 4 to February 2, 1913, when he returned to Houston and resumed his duties as active head of the Post. He retired in 1919 and served as state senator from the Houston district; he resigned when he was appointed chairman of the state prison commission by Governor William P. Hobby on January 12, 1920. Johnston married Mary E. Parsons in 1875, and they had three children. He died on February 28, 1926, and was buried in Glenwood Cemetery, Houston.
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Biographical Directory of the American Congress (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1859-). Houston Post-Dispatch, March 1, 1926. Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (5 vols., ed. E. C. Barker and E. W. Winkler [Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1914; rpt. 1916]). E. H. Loughery, Personnel of the Texas State Government for 1885 (Austin: Snyder, 1885). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
- Editors and Reporters
- Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
- Progressive Era
- Upper Gulf Coast
- East Texas
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Anonymous, “Johnston, Rienzi Melville,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 27, 2020, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/johnston-rienzi-melville.
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