Recognizing Equity and Justice with Inaugural Excellence in Social Justice Award

Last updated: June 13, 2023, at 2:05 p.m. PT

Originally published: June 13, 2023, at 2:05 p.m. PT

Two couples posing for the awards event

“It is easy to recognize the inequities in our community, but it takes real commitment and courage to do something about it,” said Frank X. Shaw, Y Board of Directors Board Chair. To recognize those who do just that, and in commemoration of the late Judge Charles V. Johnson and his partner, Mrs. Lazelle Johnson, we added an Excellence in Social Justice award to our annual volunteerism awards event in 2022.

Born in the segregated South, Judge Johnson served in a segregated army before coming to Seattle in 1954 to study law at the University of Washington. Of three Black students, he was the only one to graduate and would go on to become head of Seattle’s NAACP chapter. It was there that Judge Johnson began his life’s work of improving the quality of Black education and addressing real estate and employment inequities. After practicing for a decade, he served as judge in Seattle Municipal Court and came together with 10 other attorneys to form Loren Miller Bar Club to support fellow Black attorneys who found camaraderie nowhere else and serve as a formidable civil rights organization. Countless generations of students benefited from Judge Johnson’s mentorship there and looked to him as an example of what was possible after his being the first Black appointment to the Washington State Superior Court in 1981. He went on to receive numerous awards from bar associations and universities before passing away in 2021 but is survived by his indelible work and incredible wife, Mrs. Lazelle Johnson.

Hers too is a long history of selfless public service, having served on the board of the YWCA and the Girls Club of America and going on to become president of the Girls Club of Puget Sound and the Links, Inc. – an organization dedicated to enriching, sustaining, and ensuring the culture and economic survival of African Americans and other people of African ancestry. In addition to all the above, she was appointed to the Seattle Public Library board of trustees, bringing much-needed stability during a time of unrest within the organization, whilst also serving as regional administrator for the Women’s Bureau of the US Department of Labor. It was Mrs. Johnson who introduced the first recipients of the award to Judge Richard and Leslie Jones, as “... people who get things done, they are no strangers to serving the community,” in recognition of their tireless dedication to a plethora of local and national boards and advisory groups, including our own, with a focus on students of color.

Category: Impact Newsletter