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JOHNSTON, THOMAS J. (1830–1885). Thomas J. Johnston, priest and college president, the son of George and Phillis (Fearson) Johnston, was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, on March 8, 1830. From 1844 to 1859 he lived in Detroit. He attended the University of Michigan and was admitted to the bar in 1855. 1n 1858 he became a clerk in the United States Department of State and in 1801 was appointed United States consul to Lanthala, in the Pacific Ocean. Apparently he preferred Texas to the consulate, for he was in Victoria, Texas, soon after secession in 1861 and volunteered for service in the Confederate Army under Earl Van Dorn. Invalided because of an attack of typhoid fever, he returned to Victoria to teach. On August 15, 1865, Johnston was ordained to the Catholic priesthood by Claude Marie Dubuis and was appointed assistant priest at St. Mary's Church in San Antonio. In December 1865 he became first assistant of the cathedral in Galveston and was there at intervals until 1867, when he was appointed president of St. Mary's University. From 1869 until his death, on July 14, 1885, he was pastor at St. Mary's Church. On November 5, 1894, a fifteen-foot marble shaft was unveiled in ceremonies at his grave in San Antonio.


San Antonio Daily Express, July 17, 1885, November 5, 1894. William S. Speer and John H. Brown, eds., Encyclopedia of the New West (Marshall, Texas: United States Biographical Publishing, 1881; rpt., Easley, South Carolina: Southern Historical Press, 1978).


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

"JOHNSTON, THOMAS J.," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed November 26, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.