Baylor University Poage Library

About Sam Johnson


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Samuel Dodson "Sam" Johnson, Jr., State and Federal Judge, was born November 17, 1920 in Hubbard, Texas to Sam Johnson, Sr., who died seven years later. He was educated in Hubbard and moved to Waco before his senior year. He attended Baylor University before enlisting in the United States Army in World War II.

Johnson served as a combat infantryman in Co. K, 378th Regiment, 95th Infantry Division, Third Army, from Omaha Beach to the City of Metz in Alsace Lorraine where he was wounded.

He was awarded the Combat Infantryman's badge, the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart. After the war, he graduated from Baylor University and entered the University of Texas School of Law. Upon receiving his law degree in 1949, Johnson and his wife, June, moved to Hillsboro, where he began to practice.

Johnson, after becoming interested in politics, ran successfully for Hill County Attorney, District Attorney and Judge of the 66th Judicial District of Texas. In 1965, Judge Johnson resigned his judgeship to become the first director of the Houston Legal Foundation, a pilot endeavor in the United States to test the feasibility of providing legal services to the poor. He was also elected to the Board of Directors of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association, and received the recipient of the NLADA's foremost designation, the Arthur von Briesen Award. This award is given annually "to an individual not employed by a legal service or defender program who has made substantial contributions to the cause of providing legal services for disadvantaged." Johnson was also awarded the Frank J. Scurlock Award from the State Bar of Texas in 1981. This award is made annually by the State Bar to an individual who has made significant contributions in providing legal services on behalf of the poor.

In 1968, Johnson was elected to the Fourteenth Court of Civil Appeals in Houston, where he was reelected three more times by the people of Austin, Brazoria, Brazos, Burleson, Chambers, Colorado, Fort Bend, Galveston, Grimes, Harris, Trinity, Walker, Waller and Washington Counties.

In 1972, he was elected to the Supreme Court of the State of Texas, becoming the only person in the history of the State to go to the Supreme Court of Texas by election without opposition. He was active in the Judicial Section of the State Bar of Texas, serving on the Executive Committee, as Secretary/Treasurer and as Vice-chairman and Chairman-elect, prior to his federal appointment.

With the creation of the Texas Judicial College in 1974 (now the Texas College for New Judges), Judge Johnson was a regular teacher on judicial ethics to newly elected judges. His fellow judges elected him as their representative on the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association. He served as the Judicial-Member-at-Large. He was former Chairman of the Appellate Judges' Conference of the ABA and was a member of the American Judicature Society and the Institute of Judicial Administration. Johnson was a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation, a Fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation, and a Fellow of the Houston Bar Foundation. He served on the Council of Legal Education Opportunity. CLEO's purpose is to attract, make available and insure nationwide legal education opportunities for minorities. He also served on the Board of Directors of the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada. The College is the major educational institution providing training and education for the judiciary.

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter appointed Judge Johnson as Circuit Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Johnson served of Fifth Circuit Court until he assumed senior status on May 10, 1991, but continued to serve unitl his death.

As a student at Baylor University, he was a member of a number of campus organizations, including the Baylor Chamber of Commerce and Delta Sigma Phi. He was elected President of the Baylor Alumni Association. He was designated as a Distinguished Alumnus of that University in 1978. It was during that era that the autonomy of the Baylor Alumni Association was established as a separate entity with dues paying membership. Judge Johnson and his wife are Life Members of the Baylor University Alumni Association. Judge Johnson received his LL.B from the University of Texas and in 1977 was awarded an honorary Order of the Coif from that University. Judge Johnson is a Life Member of the Texas Ex Students Association.

Being raised in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Hubbard, Johnson was elected and served as an Elder in each church he attended, the First Presbyterian Church in Hillsboro, Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church in Houston and Covenant Presbyterian Church in Austin. He served on the Board of Trustees of the Presbyterian Children's Home and Service Agency for the State of Texas. The agency provided services, which range from childcare, adoption and foster home service, to custodial care for dependent and neglected children. His wife June is now a member of that same Board of Trustees for the Presbyterian Children's Home and Service Agency.

Judge Johnson passed away on July 27, 2002, and was buried in the Texas State Cemetery three days later.

Taken from the Texas State Cemetery web site: www.cemetery.state.tx.us

 


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