George Washington Johnson

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Schoolteacher and poet George Washington Johnson made his biggest contribution to the world of popular song when he wrote the lyrics to the standard "When You and I Were Young, Maggie" for his new wife,…
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Schoolteacher and poet George Washington Johnson made his biggest contribution to the world of popular song when he wrote the lyrics to the standard "When You and I Were Young, Maggie" for his new wife, Maggie Clark, who was ailing from tuberculosis. Born in 1839 near Toronto, Canada, Johnson studied to become a schoolteacher, and by 20 years of age he began teaching in Hamilton, Ontario. As a young teacher, he met and fell in love with Maggie Clark, who at that time was one of his students. During one of Clark's harshest struggles with her illness, Johnson composed his now famous poem to her while viewing the local mill from his perch on a nearby hill, and then published it in 1864 in his book of poetry titled Maple Leaves. Johnson and Clark were married in October of that year, but in the spring of 1865, at the young age of 23, Maggie Clark died. A year later, Johnson requested his friend, James Austin Butterfield, to set the poem to music, and the song quickly became a popular worldwide standard. George Washington Johnson married twice more and died in 1917 in Pasadena, CA.