Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Rosa Parks Honored and Judge Frank Johnson Remembered

This year we honor the memory of Rosa Parks on the 100th anniversary of her birth . A statue of Rosa Parks now stands in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall. The U.S. Post Office has also issued a commemorative stamp honoring Rosa Parks, the catalyst of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott. This seminal event in U.S. history also brought to national prominence Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. At the Capitol event, President Obama noted that ``Rosa Parks tells us there is always something we can do. We all have responsibilities to ourselves and others.”

It was federal Judge Frank Johnson, Jr. of the Middle District of Alabama who was part of a three-judge panel that ordered the integration of the public transportation system of Montgomery in Browder v. Gayle, 142 F.Supp 707, a ruling later upheld by the United States Supreme Court.

I once heard Judge Johnson say that the overwhelming work of a federal judge is interpreting sometimes arcane provisions of the U.S. Code and regulations; and rarely does a major civil rights case appear before the court. But, that said, Judge Johnson went on to issue other major rulings of the civil rights era, including Williams v. Wallace, 240 F.Supp 100, which cleared the way for the historic march from Selma to Montgomery.

President Jimmy Carter named Judge Johnson to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and, when Florida, Alabama and Georgia were spun off to create the Eleventh Circuit, Judge Johnson served on that federal appeals court.