Lloyd Johnson

31. CLOSING THOUGHTS

By |2021-02-28T23:41:17+00:00March 1st, 2021|Lloyd Johnson|

If, before the Covid-19 pandemic, anyone had told me that I would be writing a 30-essay memoir, I would have suggested that they were under the influence of an illegal substance.  Yes, I often tested the patience of family friends with stories about things I had seen and done.  Yes, mentees often rolled their eyes when I told them “just one more story” to make a point.  Yes, a few friends had even suggested I write about my life experiences, maybe to limit my storytelling. No way, I countered. I [...]

 30. HOW’D YOU DO IT?

By |2021-02-26T19:43:45+00:00February 24th, 2021|Lloyd Johnson|

None of us got where we are solely by pulling   ourselves up by our bootstraps.   We got here because somebody ….   bent down and helped us pick up our boots.    --Justice Thurgood Marshall    Lloyd, 5th grade. 1941 Midway through these essays, a dear Savannah friend, Ezra Merritt, referring to my early challenges -- beaten by teachers for minor infractions; bullied by Olly Sanders; and sleeping on a folding cot in my aunt’s kitchen, nights that left me feeling superfluous -- asked, “Lloyd, how’d you do it?” His seemingly simple question mirrored my own thoughts as I have been writing these essays.   How did I do it?   Well, I wasn’t alone, never alone.  Many people, knowingly and unknowingly, helped me pick up [...]

29. LOSS, MENTORING, AND THE FISH RULE

By |2021-02-16T02:36:40+00:00February 16th, 2021|Lloyd Johnson|

I’ve never been known as a “potted palm” -- that is, a passive observer -- so, it was no surprise to anybody that as soon as we moved to Savannah, I immersed myself in the community. I became just as active here as I had been in Maryland. I was still trying to change our crazy world.  I was twice elected to leadership positions in our church. The bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia asked me to take on a couple of special assignments. I became an active member [...]

28. SAVANNAH, GEORGIA 

By |2021-02-10T02:22:58+00:00February 10th, 2021|Lloyd Johnson|

My serendipitous Maryland playground meeting with Safi Ingram, the Savannah real estate agent, turned out to be a life-changing event for Connie and me. We’d already decided to explore Savannah as a possible retirement home, having been  somewhat smitten with its history and charm during our occasional day visits from our time-share in nearby Hilton Head, South Carolina.  As we began our “exploratory” trip, in early September 2005, I emphatically decreed to Connie that we were only going “to look it over; we’re not going to buy anything.”  Famous last words. I was wrong, very wrong. We met with Safi, warm and exuberant, and looked at several possible future homes. We never intended to buy on this exploratory trip, but – by the end of our second day -- we’d made an offer to purchase what became our new Savannah home.  It was a two-story, brick home on a quiet tree-lined street in a pastoral subdivision situated in west Chatham County. We looked at [...]

27. VULNERABLE

By |2021-02-02T23:34:58+00:00February 2nd, 2021|Lloyd Johnson|

EXPLODING MY COMFORT ZONE  I was snatched from my comfort zone early one morning in November 1993 by an excruciating pain in my left flank. At Connie’s urging, I immediately called my physician, Hector Collison, M.D.. When he returned my call shortly afterwards, the pain was gone, and I was preparing for a busy day in the office. However, when he suggested I see him. I did. Believing I had a kidney stone, he almost off-handedly ordered an ultrasound.   Hector called me later that afternoon and somberly  told me to see him “right away.” Scared, I asked the usual, “What’s up?” He replied with the usual, “We’ll talk when you get here.” Our too-brief exchange wasn’t encouraging at all. No wonder he wanted to see me. It wasn’t good. The ultrasound had detected “a suspicious mass of some complexity.” Likely kidney cancer.   I was scared to death. Everyone I had known to have cancer had died.  Dad had died within four months of his diagnosis. I truly believed that my time had come, that I'd been [...]

26. PROSECUTION & RECONCILIATION 

By |2021-01-27T17:18:26+00:00January 27th, 2021|Lloyd Johnson|

 UPPER MARLBORO  County CourthouseUpper Marlboro, MD I was struck by the differences between the cities of Rockville in Montgomery County and Upper Marlboro, the Seat of Prince George’s County. I now worked in Upper Marlboro; it was originally a sleepy Southern country town. Its Main Street was bounded by the County Courthouse on one end and a huge tobacco auction warehouse on its opposite end. It had rapidly grown to include the county administration office and aburgeoning residential population.   It was an easy commute and as I drove the last few scenic miles to the courthouse, I sometime thought about how far I had come since being bullied and whipped at the Dudley School, sleeping on Aunt Edith’s kitchen cot, and Frenchie telling me that I would be “somebody.” Now, I’m respected by my colleagues, deferred to in the courthouse, guaranteed a valued courthouse parking spot, and can bypass security. I [...]

25. “FOR THE STATE OF MARYLAND”

By |2021-01-19T23:54:26+00:00January 19th, 2021|Lloyd Johnson|

MONTGOMERY COUNTY  The atmosphere of the Montgomery County Courthouse in Rockville, Maryland, was unlike the hustle and bustle of Capitol Hill and Howard University. It was slow-paced and relatively quiet and the courthouse was situated in the judicial plaza of a genteel, tree-filled suburban city.  The drive to work was an almost-pleasant commute against traffic.   But the superficial calm of the courthouse masked its pathos. Over the years, I came to regard this courthouse and others as “Palaces of Pain.”  I found that the pain and suffering of victims, defendants, families, and others to be silent but palpable throughout America’s courthouses. Lives are changed forever in court.  The law exists for one reason — to resolve disputes. What greater dispute could there be than whether a person will find freedom or imprisonment? I was about to become a part of that process in this suburban Palace of Pain.  Following orientation, we four soon-to-be assistant state’s attorneys (ASAs) — Alex Foster, Debbie Black, Terri Turner (who is Black), [...]

24. CAPITOL HILL & CAREER CHANGE 

By |2021-01-14T02:44:29+00:00January 14th, 2021|Lloyd Johnson|

HATCH ACT REFORM  The federal Hatch Act of 1939, prohibiting federal employees from participating in partisan political activities, was intended to ensure a fair and impartial federal civil service. In 1975, in an effort to loosen those limitations, my new boss, Congressman William L. “Bill” Clay, introduced legislation to reform the Hatch Act.  It was designed to remove all restrictions on off-duty political activity by federal employees.   Enactment of the legislation was the primary focus of Congressman Clay’s subcommittee on Employee Political Rights; proponents and opponents quickly fell into place. Supporters included organized labor, civil rights groups, and most Democrats. Opposing the bill was the business community, a few good-government groups, and most Republicans.   My job? To oversee the drafting of countless proposed amendments to the original bill and to be the liaison with countless interest groups both for and against the legislation. I was [...]

23. RETURNING TO D.C.

By |2021-02-10T02:19:24+00:00January 4th, 2021|Lloyd Johnson|

A WHOLE NEW BALL GAME  My return to D.C. in 1974 to meet with Congressman Gus Hawkins and talk about a job, was very unlike my arrival there in 1949, 25 years earlier, when I came to enroll in the Mecca, Howard University. This time, the U.S. Capitol wasn’t just a landmark; it was my likely place of employment. I carried a briefcase, not a suitcase. There was one taxicab line at Union Station, not two segregated ones – and the dispatcher was Black. The mayor, Walter Washington, was a Black man. A college friend had told me that, within the Black community, the District of Columbia was now called Chocolate City, majority Black. She was right.  I naively thought that the Rayburn House Office Building, the site of Congressman Hawkins’ office (staff never called him “Gus”), was a typical office [...]

22. New Directions

By |2020-12-22T15:03:51+00:00December 22nd, 2020|Lloyd Johnson|

AT THE URBAN CENTER  Inwardly, I was apprehensive about succeeding Franklin H. Williams as the director of Columbia University’s Urban Center. Physically, he had a commanding presence. He exuded self-confidence. He had been the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, and he was used to dealing with people at the highest levels of government, nationally and internationally. A lawyer, he had successfully argued several civil rights cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.   I had none of these, nor the academic credentials to compete inside an Ivy League University. I wasn’t the product of the Ivy League nor had I earned the Ph.D. -- the gold standard of academic degrees and very important in any Ivy League university, then and now.   But I kept my uncertainties to myself and fell back on a tenet of my social [...]