May 11, 2002
|Dean Emeritus Ben F. Johnson, Jr., received an honorary degree from Georgia State University at the Spring 2002 Commencement Exercises, held May 11, 2002 in Atlanta, Georgia.
Ben F. Johnson, Jr., was the founding dean of the Georgia State University College of Law. From 1981 until his retirement in 1985, Johnson took the law school from its inception to its first graduating class and provisional accreditation from the American Bar Association. "There is genius at Georgia State," believes Johnson. "It is the union of the academic community, the business and professional communities, and the students who want to learn." Though many people played important roles in making the dream of a law school at Georgia State a reality, no one was more critical to the College of Law's eye-catching early success than Dean Emeritus Ben F. Johnson, Jr.
Johnson was born and raised in Atlanta where he graduated from Atlanta's Boys High School in 1932. He earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Georgia in 1937 after working his way through Emory University and what is now Georgia State University. Of his early experiences at Georgia State he says, "…that evening school on Walton Street in downtown Atlanta made a significant contribution to my life and my career." He believes the classes he took "gave initial direction to my career. It was from this total experience that I learned about the significance of motivation, the effective use of time, and the incremental power of persistence."
After graduating first in his class from the Emory University Law School in 1939, he began his law career at the Atlanta law firm of Sutherland, Tuttle and Brennan; served as a naval intelligence officer during World War II; and went on to earn a Master of Law degree from Duke University. In 1949, Johnson began his tenure of over thirty years as law professor and dean at Emory University. While teaching at Emory between 1955-1961, he served as Deputy Attorney General for the State of Georgia specializing in state tax litigation. In 1962, he was elected to the Georgia State Senate and served until 1969. His most significant achievement in the senate was as the principal author of legislation that resulted in the creation of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA). Throughout his career, Johnson has also been active in numerous charitable and community organizations and is a founder of the Atlanta Young Singers of Callanwolde.
Dean Johnson's life and career serve as a beacon for all those who believe in the importance of public service. Whether serving as a lawyer, a senator in the Georgia General Assembly, a legal educator, or dean at Emory and Georgia State, Johnson ceaselessly worked for the public good.