Frank Johnson the Legend and the Free State of Winston

By Steve FlowersGuest Columnist

Those of us who are Baby Boomers remember the tumultuous times of the 1960s.  We lived through the Civil Rights revolution.  Those of us who grew up here in the Heart of Dixie witnessed the transpiring of racial integration first hand.  Most of the crusades and struggles occurred here in Alabama, especially Montgomery.

A good many of the landmark Civil Rights court decisions were handed down in the Federal Court in Montgomery.  The author and renderer of these epic rulings was one, Frank M. Johnson, Jr. Johnson served as Federal Judge in the Middle District of Alabama for 24 years from 1955 through 1979.

Johnson’s judicial decisions brought death threats to him and his family from whites opposed to integration.  He was vilified by most white Alabamians at that time and became George Wallace’s favorite whipping boy.  Wallace referred to him as a “lying, scalawagging, carpetbagging integrationist.”

Frank Johnson, Jr. was born in Winston County in October, 1918.  Winston County attempted to stay neutral during the Civil War. It was a Republican stronghold in an overwhelmingly Democratic Alabama.

In contrast to the Black Belt planters in South Alabama, the people who settled North Alabama were small farmers.  The land they settled on was hilly and not as conducive to growing cotton.  Rather than large plantations and slaves, the fiercely independent hill country farmers had 40 acres and a mule.

See complete story in the Pickens County Herald.
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