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JOHNSON, ELMER HARRISON (1893–1947). Elmer Johnson, geographer, was born on September 8, 1893, near Preston, Missouri. He attended the Weaubleau Christian College in 1909–12 and the University of Montana in 1914–15. After receiving a bachelor of science from Southwest Missouri State College in 1917 and serving in intelligence during World War I, he entered graduate school at the University of Wisconsin in 1920. There he studied under the authority on mineral resources, C. K. Leith, and earned a Ph.M. in 1921. Johnson continued his education at the University of Chicago in 1922–23, where he was made a fellow in geography and also earned a membership into Sigma Xi. In 1924–25 he studied botany and soil science at Clark University under leading authorities in those fields. He also attended Missouri and Harvard universities. Johnson moved to Texas in 1925 to teach geography at Texas A&M University. In 1927 he joined the University of Texas Bureau of Business Research as an industrial geographer. The research programs of the bureau allowed him to study Texas's natural resources, a field that was to capture his interest till the time of his death in 1947. Johnson believed that Texas had the resource potential to lead the nation in industry, and he was quick to criticize any state policy that restrained that potential. In time, he began to be recognized as an authority on Texas minerals and natural resources. He wrote several articles that defined the state's resources by regions. In the mid-1940s he promoted manufacture and distribution of the state's rich resources. With his wife, Ellen, whom he married on May 30, 1931, Johnson spent time on hobbies such as collecting stamps and studying Indian civilization. He was a member of the Texas Geographical Society, the International Soils Association, the Authentu Society of the University of Montana, and the American Geographical Society of New York. Johnson died after a lengthy illness on June 15, 1947. He was buried in Memorial Park in Austin.


Austin American, June 16, 17, 1947. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

Amit Virmani


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

Amit Virmani, "JOHNSON, ELMER HARRISON," Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed November 25, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.