Marc C. Johnson
Official Site of the Author and Historian
Political Hell-Raiser: The Life and Times of Senator Burton K. Wheeler
Burton K. Wheeler is the most powerful politician Montana ever produced and one of the most significant members of the United States Senate during three of the most eventful decades in American history.
Extensively researched and including new archival sources this is the first full-length biography of one of the Senate’s most fascinating and controversial figures.
-Published by the University of Oklahoma Press
Four Senate elections in 1980 foreshadowed the current dysfunctional United States Senate and our sharply polarized politics. Marc Johnson explores these historic elections and the outside forces that both changed politics and the Senate.
Many Things Considered
In “Many Things Considered” one-time journalist and full-time political analyst Marc Johnson applies his passion for context to connect current politics with political history. What are the links between the debacle of Barry Goldwater’s 1964 presidential campaign and the Tea Party movement? Did Alexander Hamilton foresee the partisanship that now surrounds judicial appointments? Why haven’t third parties had political success in America? Johnson weaves interviews, archival sound, humor and authoritative narration to connect political history to today’s political stories.
In a new review in The American Conservative, historian Richard Drake praises author Marc Johnson’s research and insights. “Johnson leaves room for argument about Wheeler’s legacy,” Drake says, “but he performs a welcome service by bringing forth this hell-raiser’s story from out of the shadows of public forgetfulness. It is the story of a ruggedly independent-minded patriot whose prophetic warnings about the danger posed to the American people by their militarized empire have come to pass in our time.”
“Marc Johnson’s biography of Burton K. Wheeler rescues an important early-twentieth-century U.S. senator from obscurity. Recapturing the colorful qualities of this most independent of politicians, he expands our understanding of Wheeler’s significance and our country’s past even as he provides guidelines for thinking about our current political issues.”
Robert Dallek - author of Franklin D. Roosevelt: A Political Life and An Unfinished Life: John F. Kennedy, 1917–1963
“Marc Johnson has delivered the long-awaited life story of the national statesman who represented Montana in the U.S. Senate with ‘more than one man’s share of fights’ during the twentieth century’s transformative second quarter. At last, Burton K. Wheeler has the biography his public service deserves.”
Richard A. Baker - U.S. Senate Historian Emeritus and coauthor of The American Senate: An Insider’s History
“This long-awaited and first extensive biography of one of America’s most effective and productive U.S. senators, the honorable maverick Burton K. Wheeler, arrives right on time. We Americans need a good and true story like this—about a determined lawyer who defended the rights of day laborers in a hard-rock mining camp out West and went on to represent his constituents as their U.S. senator to his final breath. Marc Johnson has provided that biography.”
Pat Williams - U.S. Representative from Montana, 1979–1997
About the Author
Marc Johnson’s writing on politics and history has appeared in numerous regional and national publications, including the New York Times, the California Journal of Politics and Policy, Montana – The Magazine of Western History and The Blue Review, the policy journal of Boise State University. His blog and podcast on history and politics is entitled Many Things Considered.
A journalism graduate of South Dakota State University, where he was named an outstanding alumni, Johnson has chaired both the Idaho Humanities Council and the Federation of State Humanities Councils and has frequently served as a National Endowment for the Humanities site visitor. He has taught courses on politics and history at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes at Boise State University and the University of Arizona.
Johnson has worked as a broadcast journalist, a top aide to Idaho’s longest serving governor Cecil D. Andrus, and as a communication and crisis management consultant.
In the Press
Listen to Reader's Corner host Bob Kustra interviewing Marc Johnson on Boise State Public Radio.
Boise State Public Radio
June 24, 2019
While not a household name, Burton K. Wheeler may have been the most powerful politician Montana ever produced, and he was one of the most influential and controversial members of the United States senate. A New Deal Democrat and lifelong opponent of concentrated power, he consistently acted with a righteous personal and political independence that has all but disappeared from the public sphere.
Marc Johnson Discusses Former Senator Burton K. Wheeler on the air with Brian Kahn
Home Ground Radio
May 20, 2019
For 40 years, Burton K. Wheeler wielded great power in Montana and Washington D.C. A man of courage and contradictions, he stood up to copper kings but was fooled by Hitler. Marc Johnson’s portent new biography tells the story.
Political Powerhouse of the Past: A Biography of U.S. Senator B.K. Wheeler
Montana Press Monthly
May 17, 2019
Marc C. Johnson speaks to the Montana Press about his new book and his perspective on political history.
Meet Burton K. Wheeler: The onetime senator from Montana who wasn't afraid of anything
The Billings Gazette
May 10, 2019
Burton K. Wheeler is a dinosaur.
His type doesn't really exist anymore, and most people don't know a lot about the former Montana senator. But in his day, he was a ferocious "hell raiser" who wasn't afraid of anything — from the huge mining interests that controlled the Montana to the powerful president of the United States.
New book chronicles life of Burton K. Wheeler, iconoclastic Montana senator and Butte legend
May 5, 2019
Butte loved Burton K. Wheeler, and he loved Butte back.
Now, an important new book — the definitive political biography of the fiercely progressive and iconoclastic senator — has been published.
"Political Hell-Raiser: The Life and Times of Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana," was authoritatively researched and written by longtime Western journalist, political aide and consultant Marc C. Johnson.
Montana's most powerful politician isn't whom you'd expect
Great Falls Tribune
May 6, 2019
"If I seem to have done everything the hard way, I have no regrets — I would do it the same way again." — Sen. Burton K. Wheeler
Author recalls how bipartisanship thwarted FDR’s court-packing scheme
Idaho Mountain Express
April 26, 2019
In Washington, D.C., what’s rarer than bipartisan agreement these days? It might be a new idea.
Marc Johnson, author of a new book called “Political Hell-Raiser: the Life and Times of Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana,” told an audience in Ketchum on Tuesday night that some Democratic presidential candidates are reviving an idea that former President Franklin Delano Roosevelt tried in the 1930s.
MT Lowdown Podcast – Episode 16: “Political Hell-Raiser: The Life and Times of Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana”
Montana Free Press
April 23, 2019
Burton K. Wheeler was an original maverick. A “Political Hellraiser,” according to a new full-length biography of the former Montana Senator by historian Marc Johnson.
Journalist Marc Johnson gave an illustrated talk about U.S. Senator Burton K. Wheeler (D-Montana), who served from 1923 to 1947.
April 18, 2019
He’s known for being a prosecutor in the 1920s Teapot Dome oil scandal, and for initially supporting President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal policies, then opposing his attempt to add more justices to the Supreme Court, and favoring the anti-interventionist America First Committee. Mr. Johnson is the author of “Political Hell-Raiser: The Life and Times of Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana.” The Montana Historical Society hosted this program.
April 11, 2019
Long-time Pacific Northwest political columnist Randy Stapilus says in a review of “Political Hell-Raiser,” that author Marc Johnson “has done fine work here shining a light on a part of American history we often do not see (or might feel uncomfortable examining). Much of it, too much, resonates with American as it is most of a century later.”
Marc Johnson Chronicles The Life Of Montana's Hell-Raising Senator
Boise State Public Radio
April 8, 2019
Writer Marc Johnson's new book, “Political Hell-Raiser: The Life and Times of Senator Burton K. Wheeler of Montana,” paints a picture of an irascible politician who supported FDR but was staunchly against intervening in WWII, until December 7, 1941. He was a pro-labor advocate who took on Montana's copper barons and was talked about as a potential presidential candidate in 1940. Johnson joins Idaho Matters to tell the story of the man who called himself "The Yankee from the West."
Q & A with Boise author Marc C. Johnson
May 12, 2019
Marc Johnson responds to questions about his career, his work as a journalist and his book on one of the Senate’s great mavericks.
A Century of Leadership
November 21, 2019
Why has a sparsely populated state like Montana produced so many national political leaders? Historian Marc C. Johnson and Montana journalist Chuck Johnson and Mike Dennison recently considered that question during a forum at the Montana Historical Society in Helena.
The Man Behind Montana's Contradictory, Confusing, and Occasionally Crazy Political Culture
September 12, 2019
The story of Montana’s independence starts with an odd bit of dependence: For nearly 75 years the state’s economy was dominated by a gigantic multinational corporation, the Anaconda Mining Company—properly named after the giant snake, since Anaconda maintained a stranglehold on the state’s politics.