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Mayor Durkan’s Statement on the Passing of Former Seattle Municipal and King County Superior Court Judge Charles V. Johnson

Seattle (December 31, 2020) – Mayor Jenny A. Durkan issued the following statement on the passing of Judge Charles V. Johnson, who served as Seattle Municipal and King County Superior Court Judge from 1969 to 1998, and as Seattle NAACP president and National Executive Board member: 

“Seattle lost a hero this week with the passing of Judge Charles Johnson. Judge Johnson inspired and mentored me and hundreds of young lawyers. He had an unwavering commitment to civil rights and justice. He was a deeply respected leader of the Seattle Chapter of the NAACP and an active member of the Central Area Civil Rights Commission, shining light on Seattle’s deep inequities while being an effective advocate for improvements in hiring, housing, schooling, and policing through direct action. He chaired the SPD panel that lead to significant reforms in SPD, including eliminating Internal Affairs and creating the independent Office of Police Accountability. 

“Judge Johnson was a trailblazer, the only Black person to graduate in his UW Law School class and eventually appointed judge at the Seattle Municipal and the King County Superior courts for 30 years. The legal counsel he provided through the 1960’s Civil Rights era was the backbone of support for demonstrators forced to navigate the complexities of the legal system. Judge Johnson was the best of Seattle, a stellar example of what’s possible when persistence, dedication, and opportunity meet. His sagacity, the compassion he showed for those who stood before his bench, and his dedication to improving the judiciary has made us a better city.   

“Today, my thoughts are with Judge Johnson’s family, friends, the First AME Church community, and the thousands that he impacted through his leadership on local and national boards and committees, who are mourning his passing. He is forever remembered as a distinguished champion of justice, a pillar of the community, and a Seattle legend.”