For Immediate Release
|John Johnson, executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, third from left, receives the Campbellsville University Leadership Award in a recent ceremony. From left are: the Rev. John Chowning, vice president for church and external relations and executive assistant to the president; Johnson’s wife, Courtrina; Johnson; Dr. Michael V. Carter, president of Campbellsville University; and Dr. Frank Cheatham, vice president for academic affairs at CU. (Campbellsville University Photo by Joan C. McKinney)|
By Joan C. McKinney, news and publications coordinator
CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. – John J. Johnson, executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, was presented the Campbellsville University Leadership Award during a luncheon recently in his honor.
Johnson was given the award for his lifelong leadership in the pursuit of equal opportunity and justice for all at the state and national levels.
Dr. Michael V. Carter, president of Campbellsville University; Dr. Frank Cheatham, vice president for academic affairs; and the Rev. John Chowning, vice president for church and external relations and executive assistant to the president, made the presentation in the Chowning Executive Dining Room in the E. Bruce Heilman Student Complex.
Chowning said Johnson’s passion is evident, and the Kentucky Human Rights Commission is unsurpassed in its outstanding work.
“The Lord has blessed me,” Johnson, who was at the luncheon with his wife, Courtrina, said. “All I have accomplished has been with God’s help,” he said.
Johnson said 2010 is the 50th anniversary of Kentucky being the first state in the south to adopt human rights and state laws.
He commended Campbellsville University for the work that has been done in the field of diversity including work with Greater Campbellsville United.
“We need your good work to rub off on others,” he said.
Johnson urged the audience to not let race be a dividing force in working toward solving health care, the dropout rate, slavery, etc.
“We need people of good faith” to work on these problems, he said.
He discussed the Listening Tour that is going around the state and praised Campbellsville University for holding one of the visits.
Johnson’s career as an organizer began shortly after high school when he held several positions with the 1960s War on Poverty programs. In the 1970s, he assumed the position as associate director of the Louisville and Jefferson County Human Relations Commission and was later appointed director of community services for the Kentucky Commission on Human rights. In 1984 he became the director of the Louisville and Jefferson County Community Action Agency until he joined the staff of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in Baltimore, Md.
At the NAACP, Johnson served as chief programs officer where he directed a host of national programs. In 1992 he led an NAACP delegation to East Germany where they conducted hearings on alleged discrimination against African-American military personnel.
In 1999, Johnson returned to West Germany at the United States Army’s request, visiting United States military installations to address service personnel as part of the 70th birthday celebration for the late Martin Luther King Jr.
Johnson visited East Africa to help promote global democracy and in 2002, during Zimbabwe’s presidential election, Johnson’s NAACP delegation was the only American organization invited to work as independent observers. Johnson’s role at the national office expanded, and he became the NAACP’s chief executive of operations, overseeing the executive office operations for the president and chief executive officer.
His volunteer work faced many challenges, from integrating the segregated swimming pool in his home town of Franklin, to challenging issues such as divestment of Kentucky’s interest in South Africa.
He was the youngest president of a Kentucky chapter of the NAACP where he served for 14 years, increasing Kentucky NAACP branches from four to 42. Johnson also served as chair of the Kentucky Coalition of Conscience, member of the Urban League, Kentucky chapter of the National Association of Human Rights Workers and Southern Christian Leadership Conference. He moderated a weekly radio program and wrote columns for a local weekly newspaper. His work in civil and human rights led to a street in his home town named after him, John J. Johnson Avenue, in 1993.
Johnson earned a Bachelor’s of Art degree in Community Development from Sojourner Douglas College in Baltimore and has received numerous awards and honors, including an honorary doctorate degree from Simmons College of Kentucky for civil rights and community development.
He served on the national board of directors for the A. Philip Randolph Institute, the board of directors of the National Committee on Pay Equity and the national board of directors of the Association for Quality Education and the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation.
He serves as chair of the advisory board of the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum Inc.
In September 2007 he was appointed by the Board of Commissioners of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights in a unanimous decision to serve as its executive director.
Campbellsville University is a widely acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with over 3,000 students offering 45 undergraduate programs, 16 master’s degrees and five postgraduate areas. The website for complete information is campbellsville.edu.