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Georgia’s first black state senator elected after reconstruction died this week at age 91.
Leroy Johnson served in the Georgia senate from 1963 to 1975 alongside former Georgia governor and U.S. President Jimmy Carter.
Many of those who served with Johnson and those who were impacted by his work in the civil rights movement were quick to share their remembrances.
“Senator Leroy Johnson and his beautiful family have long represented the very best aspects of Atlanta. As the first African-American elected to the state legislature in more than 50 years, Senator Johnson was a groundbreaking statesman whose formidable presence in the Georgia Senate, two years before the signing of the Voting Rights Act, put equality into play in Southern politics,” said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.
“As an attorney and civil rights leader, he integrated bathrooms at the State Capitol and persuaded unwelcoming colleagues in the General Assembly with his combination of discretion, persistence and a winning sense of humor. As Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, he became a national symbol for the power of the Black vote. He was an early and influential supporter of MARTA and even helped broker Muhammad Ali’s comeback fight with Jerry Quarry at the old City Auditorium. Our entire city mourns the passing of this Atlanta legend and we extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends”
“The United States of America, the state of Georgia, its Senate, and the Johnson family have lost a leader and a patriarch. He was the first African American elected to the state legislature and his groundbreaking achievement helped pave the way for my father, Horace Julian Bond, who succeeded him in the Georgia Senate,” said Atlanta Post 1 Council Member Michael Julian Bond. “A fellow Morehouse alum, he was a mentor to my father and other Atlanta University Center students who led the Atlanta Student Movement, and eventually to me. A civil rights leader, Sen. Johnson leveled the field of politics in the South and was a symbol of the African American community. Along with myself and the city of Atlanta, we deeply mourn the loss of Sen. Johnson and extend our deepest condolences to the Johnson family.”
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of civil rights icon and Georgia statesman Sen. Leroy Johnson. Sen. Johnson was a long-time resident of District 10 and a friend to my late father, Joseph E. Boone,” said District 10 Atlanta City Council Member Andrea Boone. “He paved the way for so many elected officials and was committed to serving the people of Georgia and integrating the South. We join his family in honoring his legacy and commitment to the state of Georgia and the city of Atlanta.”