George R. Johnson Jr., a distinguished lawyer with more than 30 years of experience in government service and education, has been named the second dean of Elon University School of Law. Johnson’s appointment by Elon University President Leo M. Lambert comes after a five-month national search, and is effective immediately.
Johnson has served as interim dean of the school since August 2008, when founding dean Leary Davis stepped down due to health issues. Johnson joined Elon Law in 2006 as part of the school’s founding faculty. He also served as the school’s associate dean of academic affairs and was instrumental in the process that achieved accreditation by the American Bar Association.
“As we conducted our search for Elon Law’s next dean, it became apparent that George Johnson provided the perfect combination of experience, skill and vision,” Lambert said. “He has served in leadership positions in the executive office of the President of the United States, in Congress, as a college president, in private practice, and in top-tier law schools. His early commitment to join the faculty of Elon Law, and his leadership in developing the academic program, have demonstrated his strong belief in the mission of the school. Dean Johnson will be a strong force in continuing Elon Law’s drive toward becoming a national model of engaged learning in legal education.”
Johnson said he is honored to provide the next stage of leadership for the law school and build on the successful foundation created by Davis.
“Elon Law is already earning the attention of law schools and attorneys across the nation,” Johnson said. “Our approach to legal education is breaking new ground, helping students understand the important roles they will play as society’s leaders. The students, faculty and staff at Elon Law are working together to create a school that will have a real impact on legal practice in this nation.”
Johnson’s combination of service in the public and private sectors serves as a model for students. After earning his law degree from Columbia University in 1976, Johnson began his public service career as assistant counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Banking, Finance and Urban Affairs. Johnson joined the Carter administration in 1979 in the Executive Office of the President, serving as assistant general counsel for the White House Council on Wage and Price Stability.
Johnson’s teaching career began in 1981 when he joined the George Mason University law school. He joined the Howard University School of Law as visiting professor in 1988, was named full professor there in 1989 and was promoted to associate dean for academic affairs in 1992.
From 1996 to 2002, Johnson served as president of LeMoyne-Owen College, an independent historically black liberal arts college in Memphis, Tenn. He entered private practice in 2003 serving three years at Saint Louis & Johnson law firm in Washington.
“Elon University has committed itself to building a law school with a difference, and George Johnson is the ideal person to lead the school toward that goal in these early years,” said David Gergen, former presidential adviser and chair of the Elon University School of Law Advisory Board. “His many accomplishments in the law, his experience in government, his past successes in leadership roles, along with the deep respect and good will he already commands among faculty, students and administrators at Elon are just the right combination. The advisory board of the law school is unanimous in its support of George, and all of us look forward to working more closely with him. He is a worthy successor to build upon the vision of our first dean, Leary Davis.”
Johnson’s writings have included a chronicle of the legal status of African Americans from 1790 to 1883 for the African-American Almanac. He also edited a book on the legacy of George Mason, and has written law review articles on coastal zone management, judicial review and enforcement policies of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA).
Johnson has served on the boards of trustees/directors of Amherst College (where he received his bachelor’s degree), the United Negro College Fund, the Council of Independent Colleges, the Economic Club of Memphis, and Universal Life Insurance Company.