At the of age sixteen he was a school teacher in the Knox County School System. At age seventeen, he enrolled at the University of Tennessee for one year and afterwards attended Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio where he received an A.M. Johnson received an LL.D. from Christian University (now, Culver-Stockton College) in Canton, Missouri. In October 1877 after studying the New Testament, Johnson preached his first sermon and decided to dedicate his life to ministry. The School of Evangelists was founded in 1893. Later, it was renamed Johnson Bible College, and today it rests with its present title, Johnson University. Many well-known and successful preachers studied under A.S. Johnson including, G.C. Brewer, Charles E. Coleman, W.F. "Will" Etheridge, Amos J. Barnes, J.M. McCaleb, and others.