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The Voice of the Black Community


Retired judge Clifton Johnson dies at age 67
Was first black to serve as senior associate on N.C. Court of Appeals
Published Friday, June 26, 2009 10:50 am
by Herbert L. White


Clifton E. Johnson, a Charlotte attorney who broke barriers in North Carolina’s judicial ranks died June 25 in Asheville.

He was 67.

Mr. Johnson, a retired senior associate judge on the N.C. Court of Appeals, was attending a conference in Asheville when he became ill.

Mr. Johnson earned several firsts, culminating with his tenure on the appeals court, where he was the second black judge to sit on the panel. Mr. Johnson was elected to N.C. Superior Court in 1978, the first black to hold the position since Reconstruction, then was appointed to the Court of Appeals in 1982 by then-Gov. James B. Hunt. He was elected later that year to a full term and re-elected in 1990 before retiring in 1996 as senior associate judge, the first African American to attain the position.

A Martin County, N.C., native Mr. Johnson earned undergraduate and law degrees from N.C. Central University in Durham and was the first black lawyer to be appointed an assistant prosecutor in North Carolina.

Mr. Johnson was appointed to Mecklenburg County’s District Court in 1969, and later became chief District Court judge, both firsts.


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