Elon honors Dean Emeritus George R. Johnson, Jr. 

Professor George R. Johnson, Jr., who served as dean of Elon University School of Law from 2009 to 2014, was named Dean Emeritus on Nov. 2 at a special ceremony that included the unveiling of Johnson’s portrait. 

Elon University President Leo M. Lambert paid tribute to Professor George R. Johnson Jr. during a ceremony at the law school on Nov. 2. Lambert announced that Johnson has been granted the title of Dean Emeritus in recognition of his success in laying a foundation of excellence during his five years of service as the school’s second dean. In honor of Johnson’s service, a portrait created by award-winning artist Michael Del Priore was unveiled during the ceremony.

“Thank you for being an outstanding faculty member and a mentor to countless students, and an academic leader not only at this law school but also at Elon University at large,” Lambert said, noting Johnson’s years of service as a member of the university’s senior leadership team. “This is a stronger law school because of your labor here, and Elon University is a stronger university because you served us as dean and professor.”

Elon’s Provost and Executive Vice President Steven D. House acknowledged Johnson’s pivotal role in stewarding the law school through its accreditation process with the American Bar Association.

“Thank you for your wise and essential leadership and thank you for always giving us exactly what we needed,” House said. “We are so exceedingly thankful for all you did to direct Elon in the pursuit of earning full ABA accreditation and to leading Elon in its journey to fulfilling its mission of becoming a pioneering law school with a difference.”

Elon Law alumna Jennifer Reutter L’10, president of the Elon Law Alumni Council, expressed appreciation for Johnson’s leadership on behalf of Elon Law students and alumni, noting that the Alumni Council had created the George R. Johnson, Jr. Professional Achievement Award to recognize outstanding alumni.

“All of the students and alumni that are here today have stories they could tell about Dean Johnson and the impacts that he has had on our time at Elon and on our careers,” Reutter said. “His dedication to the law school and legal community is truly unrivaled.”

Joined by his wife and son William, Johnson expressed appreciation for the university’s support, as well as the support of the Greensboro community. He recognized colleagues and university leaders for their contributions to Elon Law’s early successes.

“It is really great to have been a part of the formation of this law school, the very formative years, especially at a time when legal education was experiencing the most severe challenges that any of us alive have known,” Johnson said. “It was fortuitous, it was a godsend, that the university, when it envisioned this law school, envisioned a law school with a difference. We were setting out to set ourselves apart from others in legal education at the outset, and I think that has been a wonderful stroke of planning and great luck for the law school and for the university.”

Concluding the ceremony, Lambert noted that Johnson’s portrait will hang in Cemala Commons at the law school, the central gathering place of Elon Law students, in recognition of the impact Johnson had on students as well as the university as a whole.

“Today is a powerful reminder that faculty and deans can shape the lives of students in profound ways,” Lambert said. “You have touched the lives personally and deeply of so many students. I know many, many members of our alumni body are in your debt. We look forward to your long and continued involvement in Elon Law for many years to come.”


George R. Johnson, Jr., joined Elon Law in 2006 as part of the school’s founding faculty. He served as dean of Elon Law from February 2009 through May 2014, after serving six months as interim dean. Previously, Johnson served as the school’s associate dean of academic affairs. He was instrumental in the process that achieved accreditation by the American Bar Association.

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 named 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.

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 Occupation Safety and Health Administration and the Mine Safety and Health Administration.

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 the Universal Life Insurance Company.


Michael Del Priore is a national award-winning portrait artist who is in the front ranks of American portrait painting. A native of South Carolina, Del Priore has painted more than 800 portraits in his 35-plus year career. His works can be found in many state capitals, state supreme courts, universities, banks, hospitals, boardrooms and private collections. 

Del Priore studied at the National Academy in New York. With a background in illustration work and further studies with nationally acclaimed artists, Del Priore boasts a solid portraiture foundation. 

He has taught at the University of South Carolina and the Columbia Museum of Art, and has lectured and demonstrated his art to civic groups at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, Academy of Art College in San Francisco, and Palette and Chisel in Chicago.

He serves on the Board of Directors of the American Society of Portrait Artists and as past chairman, is a member of the Artists Fellowship Society of New York. His currently serves as executive director of the Palmetto Area Cultural Arts Center, a new addition to the revitalized downtown Williamston, S.C.