Born in Georgetown, Kentucky in July of 1854, Tom Loftin Johnson relocated to Cleveland in his mid-forties after a very successful business career licensing his patented trolley pay-boxes. He invested in the growth of railways and streetcars, eventually becoming primary owner and president of the Detroit City Railways company. Before moving to Northeast Ohio, he had also had a previous stint in politics, serving as a member of the U. S. Congress in the early 1890s.
Johnson is considered one of the leading lights of progressive public policies in the United States. He expanded park systems and advocated a number of efforts to improve the lives of ordinary citizens — the creation of public baths, the institution of inspection standards for meat and dairy products, the lowering of public transit fees and fares, and the streamlining of municipal government. The noted journalist and lecturer Joseph Lincoln Steffens referred to Johnson as “the best Mayor of the best-governed city” in America.
Created by sculptor Herman N. Matzen, this memorial statue was unveiled in 1915, and is regally framed by both the historic gray edifice of Old Stone Church and the rusticated red stone exterior of The Society for Savings Building rising behind it. The seated former Mayor is depicted grasping a copy of American writer Henry George’s political and economic treatise, “Progress and Poverty”.