Using a video produced by the American Academy of Achievement, Deborah Long (’80) and Judge W. Keith Watkins (’76) narrated the life and judicial decisions of Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr. on what would have been his 100th birthday.
As Judge Johnson remembered his life on the video, law students learned about his formative years in Winston County and why he decided to become a lawyer.
“My father was a county judge, Johnson said. “That’s when I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. I used to go when I was a kid and sit in the courtroom, watch him try cases, watch lawyers argue, watch him as a judge.”
President Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed Judge Johnson to serve as Judge of the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama. Just weeks after he arrived in Montgomery, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery bus.
During his tenure, Judge Johnson issued decisions that integrated buses in Montgomery, desegregated schools in Alabama, struck down the poll tax, protected the Freedom Riders, and allowed the Selma to Montgomery March to move forward.
The decisions, he said, weren’t about morality.
“I never looked on any desegregation case with moral standards in mind,” Judge Johnson said. “I wasn’t hired to be a moral judge. I wasn’t hired to be a preacher or an evangelist. I’m hired to apply the law.”
The event was sponsored jointly by The Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society.