Col. Orvel J. Johnson. Whether as soldier, public spirited citizen, lawyer, man of affairs or thorough American, it is difficult to know which to speak of first in connection with Col. Orvel J. Johnson, of Oklahoma City, for in each case he has gained the same enviable reputation. He is a man born to lead, the possessor of a forceful individuality that absolutely commands respect; with positive ideas and a power of enforcing on others that must always assure him a strong place in any community, a man of most dignified appearance and never-failing courtesy.
Colonel Johnson was born in Oaksville, on Oak Creek, Otsego County, New York, in 1876, and is a descendant of Sir William Johnston, one of the earliest settlers of the Mohawk Valley in New York State and the founder of Johnstown, New York, in Fulton County. The parents of Mr. Johnson, George W. and Emma (Slater) Johnson, natives of the Empire state, still survive and make their home there. Col. Orvel J. Johnson received his early education in the public schools of his native locality, following which he attended the high school at Oneonta, Otsego County, and later the New York State Normal School, located at the same place. After his graduation from the latter, in 1893, he decided upon a career in medicine, and for five years was a student under Dr. George F. Entler, of Oneonta, being still with this preceptor when the Spanish-American war came on. For some years he had been a member of the New York National Guards, and when this organization was called upon for service he went to the front as lieutenant of Company G, First Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, but was subsequently transferred to the Medical Corps and spent one year in foreign service, being stationed in the Hawaiian Islands.
On his return to Oneonta in 1899, he became superintendent of transportation of 105 miles of electric lines in New York, from Oneonta to Utica, and continued with this line until 1908, when he came to Oklahoma. He had taken up the study of law in connection with his railway duties, and in October, 1908, entered Epworth University, Oklahoma City, from which he was graduated in 1910, with the degree of Bachelor of Laws, being at once admitted to the bar. Colonel Johnson at once began practice and his ability and ready resource soon made for him considerable mark in his profession. Every case of which he has taken charge has been conducted conscientiously and most carefully, and while he has a natural courage, sufficient to provide him with resource in any emergency, yet ample preparation is bestowed whenever the opportunity is accorded. He is a fine speaker, has a most excellent manner, and that peculiarly effective power which is the result of a complete understanding of the principles involved and an earnest conviction of the justice of the case.
While a resident of Oneonta, New York, he became interested in athletics, and for fourteen years was president of Company G Athletic Association. Later, during his law course, he was physical director of the Epworth University athletes. Colonel Johnson has long been active in politics. Originally a republican, he was the organizer of the Roosevelt (progressive) movement in Oklahoma and the secretary of the state committee, spending practically an entire year of his time in this work. He has now, however, returned to the republican fold, and is active in campaign work as a speaker and a member of the Republican County Committee.
In 1911 at the National Encampment of the Spanish-American War Veterans, Colonel Johnson placed in nomination Morris B. Simons for commander-in-chief, and after seeing him elected was honored by being appointed to the commander’s staff, with the rank of Colonel. In 1914 he was likewise honored by Governor Lee Cruse, of Oklahoma, who appointed him on his staff with the rank of colonel, this being a particular honor because of their difference in politics. Various other positions have been entrusted to Colonel Johnson. Since 1911 he has been president of the Oklahoma State Automobile Association, and since 1912 president of the New York State Society of Oklahoma. He is prominently identified with Masonry, having reached the thirty-second degree, passing through all the Scottish Rite bodies including Oklahoma Consistory of the Valley of Guthrie.
Ever since coming to Oklahoma Colonel Johnson has been a steady and enthusiastic booster for the state. A member of the Chamber of Commerce and of its Boosters’ Club, he has given considerable time and work to furthering the interests of the state and has been the means of bringing in a large amount of outside capital for the development of its various enterprises and industries. At this time he is one of the directors of the Capital Building Company, and is personally interested largely in substantial realty in Oklahoma City, and was the promoter of the Wichita Falls Motor Truck Company, of Wichita Falls, Texas, the largest industry of its kind west of the Mississippi River. He maintains offices at No. 215 Oklahoma Building, Oklahoma City.
On July 31, 1911, Colonel Johnson was united in marriage with Mrs. Flora W. (Steele) Penney, daughter of Judge Steele, of Herkimer, New York. The beautiful Johnson home is located at No. 130 East Park Place, Oklahoma City.