Frank M. Johnson was a fearless judge for civil rights


Frank M. Johnson
Date: 
Wed, 1918-10-30

This date marks the birth of Frank M. Johnson, a White American lawyer and Federal judge, in 1918.

Born and raised in Winston Country, AL, near Haleyville, Frank M. Johnson was a graduate of the University Of Alabama School of Law in 1943. He spent three years in the Army and began private law practice in Jasper, AL after his discharge. Johnson was the U.S. Attorney for the northern district of his home state from 1953-55. He then received a recess appointment from President Eisenhower to the U.S. District Court, where he served until President Carter nominated him to the U.S. court of Appeals (Fifth Circuit) in 1979.

A Republican, Frank Johnson's rulings in the 1950s and 1960s helped end the era of segregated buses, schools, parks, and restaurants. Johnson’s rulings led to threats against him and his family and made him an outcast in Montgomery. A cross was burned on his lawn and his mother‘s home was bombed.

Johnson moved to the Eleventh Circuit in 1981 and served there until his death, July 23 1999. According to his former law clerk, Judge Johnson was “the embodiment of the constitution in Alabama and throughout the United States.” Senator Howell Heflin of Alabama said it was Judge Johnson’s “unrelenting devotion to the rule of law” that helped him strike down segregation laws. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., said, “Judge Johnson, through his courage and integrity, helped make this country a true constitutional democracy.”

Reference:
The Judge Who Shaped Civil Rights
by Jack Bass.
American Bar Association journal, December, 1994

Judge Johnson Buried in the Alabama Hills:
AP, The New York Times, July 28, 1999
Copyright 1999, The New York Times Co.

University of Alabama
166 Rose Administration
Box 870144
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0144

To become a Judge

Person / name: 

Johnson, Frank M.