John J. Johnson, executive director for the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, will be the guest speaker at the annual Somerset Community College Unity Breakfast on Friday, January 18. The breakfast will begin at 8:30 a.m. in the Citizens National Bank Community Room, located in the Harold Rogers Student Commons on the Somerset Campus. The event is held annually to honor the birthday of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The public is invited, however, reservations are requested. Call Elaine Wilson, SCC Director for Cultural Diversity, to make your reservation at (606) 451-6915. The event is free to the public.
Born in Louisville in 1945, Johnson was raised in Franklin, Kentucky. He joined the Franklin-Simpson County NAACP and became the youngest president of any Kentucky chapter. He was later elected president of the Kentucky Conference of NAACP Branches and held that position for fourteen years. During his tenure, he increased the number of local units from four to more than forty in Kentucky. In the mid-1980s, he served in many capacities including the Associate Director of the Louisville and Jefferson County Human Relations Commission and as Executive Director of the Louisville/Jefferson County Community Action Agency.
Johnson has been a dedicated activist for over 40 years and has received hundreds of awards for his civil rights work throughout the nation. As a result of his success, in 1993 a street in his hometown of Franklin was named John J. Johnson Avenue in his honor. He has been an avid supporter of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights since its inception and assisted with its expansion both as a volunteer and as an employee with the title of Director of Community Services. He worked vigorously helping to form many of the local human rights commissions throughout Kentucky.
In 1986, he joined the national staff of the NAACP in Baltimore, Maryland, where he was ultimately appointed as the Chief of Executive Operations, overseeing the executive office of the President and CEO, until his departure in 2006. Johnson coordinated a wide range of national programs during his years with the NAACP including Armed Services & Veterans Affairs, Economic Development, Financial Empowerment and Initiative, Labor, Rural Development Outreach, Voter Empowerment and Youth Entrepreneurial.
As Chief Programs Officer, he orchestrated the largest ever NAACP nationwide voter empowerment campaign, which resulted in registering over 455,000 new voters, the largest increase in African American voter registration in the nation’s history. Many credit this voter empowerment program with helping to lay the foundation for the election of the first African American president.
He also worked internationally, including organizing a trip to East Germany in 1992 where he led the NAACP delegation to witness hearings on alleged discrimination against African American military workers. In 1999, Johnson returned to Germany at the United States Army's behest to be a part of the ceremony for Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 70th birthday. As part of the Freedom House Citizens Exchange Program, Johnson visited East Africa to help promote global democracy. In 2002, during Zimbabwe's Presidential Election, Johnson's NAACP delegation was the only American organization invited to work as independent observers.
In 2005, Johnson was inducted into the Kentucky Civil Rights Hall of Fame. He was appointed into his current position as Executive Director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights on September 1, 2007.
Under Johnson’s leadership, the agency has established a successful Mediation Unit, providing opportunities for parties to meet, address their concerns, and ultimately form agreements that often resolve cases promptly, efficiently, and to the satisfaction of the parties involved. Ongoing monthly Advocacy Hearing and Listening Tours have been launched that allow the agency’s eleven-member Board of Commissioners to continually assess the status of protected classes statewide.
Johnson and his wife, Courtrina, reside in the Louisville Metropolitan community of Prospect, Kentucky.