John Houstoun (ən; August 31, 1744 – July 20, 1796) was an American lawyer and statesman from Savannah, Georgia. He was one of the original Sons of Liberty and also a delegate for Georgia in the Continental Congress in 1775. He was the 6th Governor of Georgia, in 1778, and again in 1784–1785.
John was born to Scots immigrants in St. George’s Parish, near modern Waynesboro, Georgia. His parents were Sir Patrick (Baronet) and Priscilla (Dunbar) Houstoun. His father served as the registrar of land grants for the Georgia Colony and the collector of quit-rents (a permanent annual tax on each grant). John was educated in Savannah and read law there. He was admitted to the bar and started a law practice in Savannah.
Houstoun married Hannah Bryan, whose father, Jonathan, was a wealthy Savannah merchant, they built their home, White Bluff, about nine miles (14 km) northwest of Savannah. The couple had no children.
Houstoun was a successful lawyer, and was appointed to the Governor’s Council by James Wright. But in 1774, Houstoun was one of the founders of the nascent revolutionary government in Georgia. He joined with Archibald Bulloch and others to form a Committee of Correspondence in support of the residents of Boston suffering the effects of the Boston Port Act. The committee went on to create formal protests against other measures brought about by the Intolerable Acts.
That same year, John was a representative in the rebel Provincial Congress of Georgia, and they named him as a delegate to the First Continental Congress. He declined, since fewer than half the counties were represented in the Provincial Congress. By 1775 this defect was remedied and he accepted that appointment. In Congress, he was a strong supporter of the movement toward independence, but resisted the non-importation agreements because of their negative effects on the southern colonies.
He was reappointed to the national congress in 1776, but did not attend. He stayed at home to work with the Committee of Safety to thwart the loyalist efforts of the popular preacher and loyalist, John Zubly. Early in 1778, he was elected as the second revolutionary Governor of Georgia also being the first governor of Georgia to be born in Georgia. That same year, he took charge of the Georgia militia in an abortive attempt to seize the British post of St. Augustine, Florida. His disagreements with the Continental Army commander, Robert Howe, contributed greatly to the failure of the expedition. When the British, in response, captured Savannah on December 29, Houstoun was forced into hiding.
After the surrender at Yorktown, the British abandoned Savannah in 1782. Houstoun returned home, and was elected to another one year term as governor in 1784. In 1790 he became the first elected Mayor of Savannah, and in 1791 was appointed a justice of the Superior Court of Georgia. After 1792 he served as president of the Chatham Academy.
John died at his home, White Bluff, just outside Savannah on July 20, 1796. Houston County in central Georgia was named for him. The variation in spelling is typical of early nineteenth century orthography.
John Houstoun pronounced his name “HOUSE-ton” and that pronunciation has been adopted in the locales named in his honor.