Johnson, Frank, Jr.

Johnson, Frank (Minis), Jr.

(1918–  ) judge; born in Winston County, Ala. After taking his law degree at the University of Alabama (1943), he served in World War II as an infantry captain (1943–45). He went into private practice (1946–55) before becoming a U.S. district judge in Alabama (1955–79), the youngest sitting federal judge at that point. In his first opinion from that bench (1956), he declared segregation on Alabama city buses unconstitutional, and from then on he found himself at the center of the civil rights storm centered in Alabama. Drawing always on the Constitution and the true spirit of laws, he effectively desegregated Alabama's schools, bus terminals, and public facilities of all kinds; in 1960 he became the first federal judge to draw up a court-ordered legislative reapportionment; in 1962 he put an end to discriminatory voter registration; in 1965 he ordered that Martin Luther King Jr. be allowed to lead the march from Selma to Montgomery. He soon found himself ostracized by many in Alabama; his mother's house was bombed; a cross was burned on his front yard; Governor George Wallace, a law school classmate, called him an "integrating, carpetbagging, scalawagging bold-faced liar." In 1977, President Carter nominated him to head the FBI, but health problems prevented him from accepting. He did accept appointment to the U.S. Court of Appeals—5th Circuit (1979–81), then 11th circuit (1981–91)—and he came to be honored, even in the South, as a major force in breaking down the old forms of discrimination and injustice in the U.S.A.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.