Joseph Forney Johnston was born in Lincoln County, North Carolina, on March 23, 1843. He moved with his family to Alabama around 1860. When the Civil War began, he enlisted in the 11th Alabama Infantry. Later he joined the 12th North Carolina Infantry, and rose to the rank of captain. On August 12, 1869, he married Teresa Virginia Hooper of South Carolina. Johnston had a successful career as a lawyer, was president of the Alabama State Bank, and was the first president of the Sloss Iron and Steel Company. He was elected governor of Alabama in 1896 and again in 1898, and later served in the U.S. Senate. He died in Washington, D.C. on August 8, 1913.