Sunday funeral service for Walter Johnson of Greensboro, former legal professional and one of many first black college students at Duke Regulation Faculty Native
GREENSBORO – Walter Thaniel Johnson Jr., who walked through the once separate doors of Duke University Law School in 1961, helped open them up to other black students who possessed the academic skills but were previously turned down because of their race.
Johnson, a native of Greensboro, died July 24th at the age of 81. He will be hailed as a devoted family man and a member of a generation that has changed the face of America at Providence Baptist Church on Sunday.
He has a long history in the civil service, from chairing the State Parole Board to directing the former Greensboro Board of Education to serving on the UNCG Board of Trustees.
Johnson’s 56-year-old wife, Yvonne Jeffries Johnson, was elected his hometown’s first black mayor. One of their four children, Lisa Johnson-Tonkins, is the Clerk of the Superior Court in Guilford County.
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A graduate of Dudley High School, he graduated from NC A&T with a degree in engineering physics in 1961 while serving as student body president and member of the ROTC, according to his obituary. Johnson had enrolled in the US Air Force after college, but his position was postponed until after he graduated from law school.
After graduating from Duke Law School, he completed his military service before returning to Greensboro to serve as Assistant District Attorney for Guilford County. He had gone into private practice when he was appointed governor at the time in 1980. Jim Hunt asked him to serve as chairman of the NC Parole Commission, which made him the first black man to hold the position. He would also serve as an associate professor of law at both his alma mater and NC Central University.