Judge Glenn T. Johnson

Judge | Class of 2006

Glenn T. Johnson was a trailblazing judge in the latter half of the twentieth century. He spent most of his professional life in Illinois, where he served in a number of positions dedicated to a career in public service.

Glenn T. Johnson was born in Washington, Arkansas, on July 19, 1917, to Floyd Johnson and Reola Thompson Johnson. As the family moved around the state, he received his early education in Washington, then in Hope, and finally in Hot Springs, where he graduated from Langston High School. He graduated in 1941 with a Bachelor of Science degree from Wilberforce University in Ohio. After college, he served in the army, and after he was released from active duty, he continued to serve as a member of the U.S. Army Reserves. He later served in the Illinois National Guard.

Following his military discharge, Johnson moved to Chicago, Illinois. There, he enrolled in the John Marshall Law School. He earned both an undergraduate law degree in 1949 and a master’s in law in 1950. Johnson also received additional professional training and graduated from the National College of State Trial Judges, while also completing the New York University Law School’s Appellate Court Judge Seminar.

Johnson served as an assistant attorney general for the State of Illinois from 1957 to 1963. This was followed by three years as the senior attorney for the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago. In 1966, he was elected associate judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County and, two years later, he was elected a full circuit judge, a post he held until 1973. On April 2, 1973, Johnson became the second African American to serve on the Appellate Court for Illinois for the First Division, a seat he held until his retirement in December 1994. One of his better-known cases involved a jury award to a man who was left a quadriplegic after plummeting over a forty-two-inch guard rail and falling twenty feet onto a crowded concourse at Chicago’s Soldier Field. Johnson upheld the $6.6 million jury verdict, affirming the decision that the conditions were unduly dangerous.

Johnson served as president of the Cook County Bar Association and was active in both the Illinois and National Bar Associations. He was chairman of the Judicial Council of the National Bar Association, as well as chairman of the Bench and Bar Section of the Illinois Bar Association. In addition, Johnson was a member of the World Judges Association. He was a loyal alumnus of John Marshall Law School, serving on the school’s board of trustees for twenty-five years.

Over the course of his career, Johnson earned a reputation as a particularly effective mentor to younger attorneys, with many of his clerks going on to judgeships and significant professional achievement. His alma mater named the law school’s chapter of the Black Law Students Association in Johnson’s honor. Among his many honors, Johnson was awarded the prestigious Heman Sweatt Award by the National Bar Association in 2008.

In 1948, Johnson married Evelyn F. Johnson, whom he had met in law school. Evelyn Johnson would also go on to be a judge, and the couple had two children. Two years after Evelyn’s death in 1991, he married Elaine Bailey. Retired and living in Chicago, Johnson died at home on November 30, 2010.

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