In Memoriam: Tobe Johnson

Tobe Johnson was associated with Morehouse College in Atlanta for over 70 years as a student, alumnus, faculty member, and administrator. The faculty icon taught at Morehouse for 59 years before retiring in 2018 from his role as Avalon professor and chair of the political science department. He is the longest-serving faculty member in the school’s 150-year history. Professor Johnson died on May 7.

Dr. Johnson taught courses on American politics, urban management, and policy analysis. Among his students were Jeh Johnson, who would become the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, Randall L. Woodfin, the youngest mayor ever elected in Birmingham, Alabama., and a young Maynard H. Jackson Jr. who was the first African American mayor of Atlanta.

A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Johnson first came to Morehouse at the age of 16. He dropped out to work in a steel mill and then joined the Air Force. After serving overseas, he returned to Morehouse College and graduated in 1954. In 1963, Dr. Johnson was the first Black person to receive a Ph.D. in government (political science) from Columbia University. He briefly taught at Prairie View A&M University in Texas before joining the Morehouse faculty.


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