Colonel Thomas A. Johnston

No living Kemper Old Boy can say he never heard the name “T. A. Johnston”. Johnston so changed the school from which he graduated that it never returned to the civilian family school it had originally been founded as. Johnston was a scout for the Confederate cavalry during the Civil War and the lessons of military discipline stayed with him for his whole life. He attended Kemper after the war and went on to earn several degrees from the University of Missouri. He was Kemper’s hand-picked successor and added the military component to the school. His inspirational talks and attention to each cadet earned him the love and admiration of every person he came into contact with.

Johnston became so respected while leading the school he came to love for over half a century that his personal recommendation was all that was needed for many graduates to attend the college of their choice. Johnston is buried at Walnut Grove Cemetery in Boonville, Missouri only a few paces from the man he admired, F. T. Kemper.

In his final years, the sheer strength of Colonel Johnston’s word was sufficient to warrant politicians to move toward action and to secure the backing of the most powerful financial institutions of the time.