June 9, 1815 - June 7, 1862
Johnson Jones Hooper was born in Wilmington, N.C. He had little formal education and worked as a printer's devil for the newspaper his father edited. In 1835, he moved to LaFayette, Ala., to read law with his older brother, George. Hooper was admitted to the bar in 1838 and practiced briefly in Dadeville, Ala., also serving as census taker for Tallapoosa County. In 1842, he returned to LaFayette to join George's practice. He wrote for and served as the editor of the La Fayette East Alabamian from 1843 to 1845 while continuing to practice law. One of Hooper's stories was republished by a New York newspaper, the Spirit of the Times, which gave him a national audience. The paper republished several of Hooper's stories, including the first stories about his most famous creation, Captain Simon Suggs. A collection of Hooper's stories, most featuring Suggs, was published in book form in 1845.
In 1845, Hooper moved to Wetumpka, Ala., to edit the Wetumpka Whig. In the winter of 1845-1846, he also worked for the state legislature in Tuscaloosa. In 1846, Hooper moved to Montgomery to edit the Alabama Journal. In 1849, he resigned and moved back to LaFayette to practice law and edit the Chambers County Tribune. That same year, Hooper published another collection of humorous stories. He also became more involved in politics. Late that year, Hooper was elected to a four-year term as Solicitor of the Ninth Judicial Circuit in Alabama, which required him to serve as prosecutor for the state in a six-county circuit. Hooper continued to edit the Tribune until 1854 when he moved back to Montgomery to co-found and edit the Montgomery Mail. He continued his involvement in politics, supporting first the Know-Nothing Party and later secession. In early 1861, Hooper was elected secretary to the Southern Congress (later called the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States of America). He followed the Confederate government to Richmond later that year where he was employed to edit the records of the Provisional Congress. He soon became ill, probably from tuberculosis, and died there in 1862.
Johnson Jones Hooper is a key figure in the genre of "Old Southwest" humor. Hooper's stories are notable for their realistic portrayal of the Alabama backwoods and the people living there. His most famous character, Captain Simon Suggs, is a literary archetype of the humorous rogue and confidence trickster.
Please check your local library for these materials. If items are not available locally, your librarian can help you borrow them through the InterLibrary Loan program. Your librarian can also help you find other information about this author.
There may be more information available through the databases in the Alabama Virtual Library. If you are an Alabama citizen, AVL can be used at your public library or school library media center. You can also get a username and password from your librarian to use AVL at home.
Photo courtesy of the Alabama Department of Archives and History.
Last updated on May 30, 2008.