Biography of A. P. Johnson

A. P. Johnson. Among the learned professions there are, probably, none that demand so much tact, judgment, patience, natural executive ability and specialized knowledge as that of the educator. The individual who enters into this field, selecting it as his chosen life work and calling, must be prepared to make many sacrifices, to endure numerous disappointments, to often spend himself for others without apparent return of gratitude, and to give the best years of his life often without the emoluments that equal efforts would in all probability bring in any other profession. It is a vocation for which there are no weights and measures. The material with which it deals is the youth of our land upon which impressions are often eternal and which affords the man who would serve the race an opportunity than which there are none greater. Of the men of Champaign County who have dedicated their lives to this work, one of the best known is A. P. Johnson, superintendent of the public schools of the city of Urbana.

Born December 16, 1863, in Sussex County, Delaware, A. P. Johnson, is a son of Benjamin and Sarah (Smith) Johnson. On both sides of the family he is descended from English ancestors, and his ancestors lived for many years in Delaware, where both his parents were born. Benjamin Johnson was a fanner by vocation and in 1873, feeling that the fertile fields of Illinois would yield him a fortune; he came to this state and settled on a farm in Mahomet Township, Champaign County, where the remainder of his life was passed in the tilling of the soil and the raising of crops and cattle. He was a good farmer and expert judge of cattle, an honorable man of business and public-spirited citizen, and a man who had the confidence and respect of his fellows. His death occurred in 1907. In his political affiliation he was a Republican, and he and Mrs. Johnson, who died in 1880, were members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. There were six children in the family, namely: Charles, who is engaged in farming in Michigan; Mary, Stewart and Eliza, who are all deceased; A. P., of this notice; and Willard, who is a railroad locomotive engineer and makes his home at Decatur, Illinois.

A. P. Johnson was ten years of age when brought to Illinois by his parents, and here his education was commenced in the public schools. When he was seventeen years of age he began to do a man’s work in the fields, at a monthly wage, although he continued his studies during the winter terms, and when he was nineteen years of age had so far progressed that he entered upon his career as an educator. While he was engaged in teaching in the country schools of Champaign County, during the winter months, when he could spare the time, and during vacations, he furthered his own education by attendance at the Illinois State Normal University, the Indiana Normal School, the University of Illinois and the University of Chicago, although at no time did he give up his teaching. Thus he was enabled to pay his own way through for a comprehensive education, while at the same time he was enlightening the minds of the youths of his community. In 1900 Mr. Johnson was made superintendent of the schools of Gibson City, a position which he retained for six years, and in 1906 was called to Urbana to act in the same capacity. He has retained this position ever since, a matter now of eleven years, and from the start has sought to better conditions in every way and advance the educational standard. A thorough student of the science of education, and possessed of a natural instinct for child psychology, Mr. Johnson has made his schools a living, growing organism responsive to the best in both the teacher and the pupil. Mr. Johnson is a Republican, but not a politician. He is a Knight Templar Mason, a member of the Knights of Pythias, and an attendant of the Methodist Episcopal Church, which he joined in his youth.

Mr. Johnson was married August 20, 1890, to Miss Effie J. Obenchain, of Compromise Township, Champaign County, and to this union there has been born one daughter, Mary Pern, a graduate of the University of Illinois, class of 1916, in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and a graduate of the School of Music, University of Illinois, class of 1917. The Obenchain family has resided in Champaign County since 1854, when Edward S. Obenchain brought his wife overland in a wagon from Indiana. Here they passed their entire lives, Mrs. Johnson’s father dying February 17, 1914, and her mother following him to the grave March 15 of the same year. For a number of years they lived in Compromise Township, where Mr. Obenchain was a successful farmer, but in later years went to Penfield, where he was in the grain business. In his declining years he returned to Urbana, and here passed away. During his day he was one of the prominent men of his locality, and served for some years in the capacity of supervisor of Compromise Township.



Stewart, J. R. A Standard History of Champaign County Illinois. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York. 1918.

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