James Johnson’s biography, fact, career, awards, net worth and life story

Intro Prominent clergyman and member of Nigeria’s Legislative Council
Was Religious servant
From Nigeria
Type Religion
Gender male

1836, Sierra Leone, Sierra Leone


(aged 81 years)

Fourah Bay College

James “Holy” Johnson (c. 1836–1917) was a prominent clergyman and one of the first African members of Nigeria’s Legislative Council.

Early life and education

He was born in Sierra Leone in 1836 to liberated African parents of Yoruba origin.
Johnson enrolled in a Church Mission Society (CMS) school, then went on to Fourah Bay Institution, located in Freetown, graduating in 1858.


He was a school teacher until 1863, when he entered the ministry.

The CMS was impressed by Johnson’s potential, and sent him to its Yoruba mission in Nigeria, first in Lagos and then in Abeokuta. He was unsuccessful as a missionary, perhaps because of his rigid morality, and in 1880 was instead appointed pastor of the Breadfruit Church in Lagos.

When the Lagos Colony was separated from the Gold Coast in 1886, the legislative council of the new colony was composed of four official and three unofficial members. Lagos Colony Governor Alfred Moloney nominated two Africans as unofficial representatives, Johnson and the trader Charles Joseph George.

In 1890, Johnson became assistant Bishop of the Niger Delta and Benin territories, holding this post until his death in 1917.

He believed in a puritan, evangelistic Christianity, but was hostile to other aspects of European culture which he felt were not suitable to Africa.

Johnson received the degree Doctor of Divinity (DD) from the Durham University in March 1900.