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Frederick William Johnson was born in Staffordshire, England on February 13, 1917. After emigrating to Canada with his family in 1928, Johnson resided in Lipton and Balgonie, Saskatchewan, where his father, V.H. Johnson, served as a United Church minister. Johnson attended Regina Normal School and taught in rural Saskatchewan for four years.
In 1941, Johnson joined the Canadian army and served as a private and lieutenant with the Royal Canadian Artillery. He went overseas in 1942 with the 101st Light Anti-aircraft Battery from Moosomin, Saskatchewan, part of the Fourth Armoured Division. He first saw action at the invasion of Normandy with the Third Army Infantry Division. Johnson was discharged from the armed services in 1946 with the rank of major.
In September 1946 Johnson entered the University of Saskatchewan, where he earned Bachelor of Arts (1947) and Bachelor of Law (1949) degrees. After being admitted to the Saskatchewan bar in 1950, he started practicing law in Regina. Johnson was elected to the Regina Public School Board in 1956 and served as a trustee for two consecutive terms. In 1960 he became a Bencher of the Law Society of Saskatchewan and was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1963.
After serving the Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench as a judge (1965-1977) and Chief Justice (1977 to 1983), Johnson was appointed Saskatchewan's 16th Lieutenant Governor on July 6, 1983. He served in that capacity until his retirement on September 6, 1988. Frederick Johnson died at his cottage on Pasqua Lake on June 20, 1993. He was given a state funeral on June 23, 1993.
During his career, Johnson served as chairman of the Royal Commission on Government Administration (1964) and of the Cancer Assessment Committee (1970-1972). He was active with numerous organizations, including the Salvation Army, the Canadian Bible Society and the Royal United Service Institute of Regina. He also served for many years as a church elder of Westminster United Church in Regina.
Johnson was the recipient of many honours, including the Order of Canada (1990) and the Saskatchewan Order of Merit (1991). In 1985, F.W. Johnson Collegiate in Regina was dedicated in his honour.
Johnson married Joyce Laing of Stockholm, Saskatchewan in 1949. They had three children: William, Royce and Sheila.