Leroy Johnson, the first black Georgia state senator to be elected after Reconstruction post-Civil War, has died at 91.
The news of his death was first reported earlier this week by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
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Johnson was elected to the Georgia Senate in 1962, and served from 1963 to 1975. During his term, he was also chairman of the Georgia Senate Judiciary Committee.
According to Rev. Jesse Jackson, the renowned civil rights activist, the former politician, attorney and teacher was “the highest-ranking black person in America at the time.”
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He was credited for desegregating the Georgia state capitol building and instituting integrated bathrooms and drinking fountains.
Joe Holloway Jr./AP, FILE
Georgia state Sen. Leroy Johnson speaks during an event at a City Hall news conference in Atlanta, G.A., on Oct. 20, 1969.
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In 2008, he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution how he helped desegregate the state Capitol in 1963.
“I carried my pages into restrooms that said ‘white’ instead of ‘colored,’” Johnson said. “And when we got to the water fountain, I had them drink from the water fountain that had the sign that said ‘white’ instead of ‘colored.'”
In response, Johnson said all the signs had disappeared form the water fountains and restrooms.
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Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Johnson “became a national symbol for the power of the Black vote.”
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In 1970, Johnson also played a role in helping Muhammad Ali restart his boxing career in Atlanta. He secured a safe location for Ali to box against Jerry Quarry, following his three-year ban from the sport after refusing to fight in the Vietnam War.
Johnson earned his law degree from North Carolina Central University — as he was unable to attend the University of Georgia in 1957 as a black man, the AJC reported.