Nor am I versed on the Masons, but I was not aware that Johnson was from Pine Bluff. I was aware that Pine Bluff was a very important city and it carried a lot of weight state wide but Thompason and Bronaugh had been busy creaing the first chartered college in Arkansas and been in the state less than 1-1/2 years.
Johnson may well have been the "key" --- Robert Ward Johnson and "family" were big players in Arkansas, and his daughter, married John Cabell Breckeridge, was one of the Belles-of-the-Ball during reconstrucion days, along with Fanny Borland (poetess) d/o Solon, and Albert Pike's two daughters
He donated his personnal libary o St Johns' College which is said by some to have been begining of UALR's Law School, which I have not yet been able to document. David O Dodd's ganite monument is now in parking lot of said Law School.
Follwing bio from Encyclopedia of Arkansas, to wit:
"...he [Robert Ward Johnson] belonged to a powerful political family, as two of his uncles represented Kentucky in the U.S. House of Representatives, and another uncle, Richard Mentor Johnson, eventually became vice president of the United States. His father was appointed Superior Judge for Arkansas Territory in 1821, and President Andrew Jackson later appointed him in 1836 as the first Federal District Judge for the new state of Arkansas. One of his daughters married Ambrose H. Sevier, head of the state Democratic Party and one of the first U.S. senators from Arkansas. On July 6, 1853, Governor Elias Nelson Conway, a relative by marriage, appointed him to the U.S. Senate, a position made vacant by the resignation of Solon Borland. Winning election to a full term the following year, Johnson served in the U.S. Senate from December 1853 to March 4, 1861. He supported the Kansas-Nebraska Act and fought for the Homestead Act; after 1854, however, he came to believe that the object of such legislation was to undermine slavery. By 1860, Johnson was one of the wealthiest lawyer/politicians in the state. His plantation in Jefferson County (near Pine Bluff) was assessed in 1860 at over $800,000 dollars, and he owned 193 slaves. Johnson and Governor Conway basically dominated state politics during the 1850s through their control of the Democratic Party.
"In 1860, this political dynasty, known as "The Family"; suffered a major political setback. The dynasty attempted to rotate offices, with Senator Johnson yielding his U.S. Senate seat to Governor Conway and the governor's office going to Robert W. Johnson's younger brother, Richard H Johnson [editor of "Family's" True Democrat newspaper in ittle Rock]. Such maneuvering incited a revolt by other members of the party. Led by Congressman Thomas C. Hindman, who ran Henry Rector for governor, an insurgent ticket swept the state in 1860. The Family lost the governor's office and both seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
"The approaching secession crisis, however, sparked new life to Johnson's political career. Joining now with Congressman Hindman, Johnson helped carry Arkansas out of the Union and into the Confederacy. He was one of five Arkansans elected to the Provisional Confederate Congress in May 1861. When that became a bicameral assembly a year later, the legislature selected Johnson as one of Arkansas' two Confederate senators. [R W] Johnson was one of the richest men in the Confederate Congress. He strongly supported the administration of President Jefferson Davis, served on the powerful Military Affairs Committee, and chaired the Committee on Indian Affairs. He never attended the final Confederate Congressional session which met between November 1864 and March 1865. By that time, Senator Johnson realized that the Confederacy was lost.
"The South's defeat bankrupted him and destroyed his political career. After first fleeing to Galveston, Texas, to leave the country, Johnson finally decided to return to Arkansas. He relocated to Little Rock, where he began a law practice with Albert Pike, an old political enemy and a former general in the Confederacy. Johnson attempted to regain his U.S. Senate seat in 1878, but he lost.