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Tribute to a Seattle Civil Rights Legacy: Judge Charles V. Johnson

by Judge Anita Crawford-Willis


The Honorable Charles V. Johnson was among the many civil rights leaders of our times whose path breaking journey ensured transformative change. He was an extraordinary eyewitness to history, determined to forge a new pathway for Washingtonians. Judge Johnson is distinguished by one transcendent theme: He was a servant leader with an overwhelming sense of duty to work for equality of opportunity and racial justice through the rule of law. 

Judge Johnson arrived in Seattle in 1954 to attend the University of Washington School of Law.  During an interview, he recalled there were just two additional Black students enrolled when he arrived. One of them dropped out after six weeks and the other shortly thereafter. As a result, Johnson was the only Black graduate in his class. Having grown up in the segregated South, and serving our country in a segregated army abroad, law school was the first time he would sit down across from whites to have a conversation, let alone discuss the law. 

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