Former State Senator Leroy Reginald Johnson, the first black senator elected to the Georgia Assembly since Reconstruction, has passed.
Born on July 28, 1928, he graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in 1945. He would go on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Morehouse College in 1949. In 1951, he earned a master’s degree from Atlanta University, which would later become Clark Atlanta University. He would earn a law degree from North Carolina Central University in 1957.
Sen. Johnson served as the first black in the Fulton County Solicitor General’s office from 1957 to 1962. He would then be elected to the Georgia Senate in 1962, where he served from 1963 to 1975.
Sen. Johnson He was recognized in 2017 with the Randolph Thrower Lifetime Achievement Award by the State Bar of Georgia.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms issued the following statement:
“Senator Leroy Johnson and his beautiful family have long represented the very best aspects of Atlanta. As the first African-American elected to the state legislature in more than 50 years, Senator Johnson was a groundbreaking statesman whose formidable presence in the Georgia Senate, two years before the signing of the Voting Rights Act, put equality into play in Southern politics. As an attorney and civil rights leader, he integrated bathrooms at the State Capitol and persuaded unwelcoming colleagues in the General Assembly with his combination of discretion, persistence and a winning sense of humor. As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he became a national symbol for the power of the Black vote. He was an early and influential supporter of MARTA and even helped broker Muhammad Ali’s comeback fight with Jerry Quarry at the old City Auditorium. Our entire city mourns the passing of this Atlanta legend and we extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends.”
Congressman Sanford D. Bishop, Jr. (GA-02) released a statement on the passing of former Georgia State Senator Leroy Johnson:
“I am very sorry to hear that my longtime mentor and friend, Senator Leroy Johnson, passed away. Senator Johnson was an inspiration to me as a high school student who motivated me to emulate his path to public service. Morehouse College, law school, and elected office demonstrated how a life and career could be used to make a community, state, and nation better. He did so much for so many for so long and the world is better because he passed this way. I extend my sincere condolences to his family and all those who mourn the loss of this great trailblazer.”