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Edwin C. Johnson Papers

Identifier: M062


Edwin Carl Johnson (1884-1970) served as a member of the Colorado House of Representatives and the Colorado State Senate. He also served three terms as Governor of the State of Colorado from 1933-1937 and again from 1955-1957 as well as three terms as a member of the U.S. Senate representing Colorado from 1937-1955. His legislative expertise in the area of water law and policy led to his appointment as the Colorado representative to the Upper Colorado River Commission. The main task of the Commission was to protect the rights of states to a fair share of the water from the Colorado River. The Colorado River Storage Project fostered water conservation and water allocation. Johnson crafted the legislation that governs the use and availability of Colorado River water to Colorado as well as other states. This collection primarily consists of material related to Johnson's work on the Upper Colorado River Comission, and the papers also include speeches, newsletters, news releases, newspaper clippings, brochures, treaties, hearing transcripts, congressional bills, and reports.


  • 1945-1969


Biographical / Historical

Edwin C. Johnson served Colorado as State Representative, State Senator, three-time Governor and three-term U.S. Senator. He was born January 1, 1884 in Scandia, Kansas, but spent most of his youth in Nebraska. He attended Lincoln High School where he had William Jennings Bryan as a substitute teacher. After he graduated in 1903, Johnson became a train dispatcher in Fairmont, Nebraska.

In 1909 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and was advised to go to Colorado. He and his wife of two years, the former Fern Claire Armitage, moved to Colorado, first to Fountain and then to a homestead near Craig. He ranched, managed a farmers’ cooperative milling elevator, and taught school before being elected to the Colorado Legislature in 1922. He moved on to the Colorado Senate for the 1931-1932 session, and was elected Governor of Colorado as a Democrat for the first time in 1933. Faced with the problems of the Great Depression, he initiated his own recovery program on tax reduction, highway and construction projects, balanced budget legislation, and civil service reform. Despite the success of his program, Johnson created controversy in 1936 when he called out the National Guard to prevent Mexican farm workers from entering Colorado. Bowing to the pressure of federal and state officials, he reversed his stance.

After two terms as Governor, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, taking office in 1937. He continued to be known as an isolationist, opposing America’s involvement in foreign wars. He was a strong supporter of people in the military and, as Vice-Chair of the Military Affairs Committee, was instrumental in the creation of the G.I. Bill of Rights, Lowry Air Force Base, and the U.S. Air Force Academy. Once the United States entered World War II, Johnson was fully behind the war effort.

After the War, Johnson was instrumental in creating the interstate highway system in Colorado, especially I-70. He supported atomic energy and its effect on Colorado uranium mining, and he was very interested in both reclamation projects and oil shale development. He served as president of the Western Baseball League, and was instrumental in the construction of Mile High Stadium in Denver. He was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame in 1968. He died on May 30, 1970.


9 Linear Feet (18 boxes)

Scope and Contents

The Edwin C. Johnson Papers consist primarily of material related to Johnson's work on the Upper Colorado River Commission. Associated closely with the Commission was the Colorado Water Conservation Board, which spearheaded much of the research and lobbying initiatives on behalf of Colorado water. The collection has extensive, but not complete, meeting minutes and memoranda of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. The Colorado River Storage Project served as a vehicle for both water conservation and water allocation. The projects that were funded, determined which areas of the country would receive the most water from the Colorado River. Johnson worked closely with the Colorado Congressional delegation, and the collection includes correspondence from Senators Gordon Allott and Peter Dominick as well as Representatives Byron Rogers and Wayne Aspinall. The papers also include speeches, newsletters, news releases, newspaper clippings, brochures, treaties, hearing transcripts, congressional bills, and reports.


The collection is arranged in six series:; 1. Personal and Professional, 1945-1969.; 2. Water Compacts and Projects, 1955-1969.; 3. Individual Water Projects.; 4. Associations and Commissions Related to Water, 1945-1969.; 5. General Water Related Material, 1950-1969.; 6. Legislation and Litigation, 1955-1968.;

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Edwin Carl Johnson, 1967.


No further accruals are expected.

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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections and Archives Repository

2150 East Evans Avenue
Denver CO 80208
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