|Title:||Reflections on Georgia Politics Oral History Collection, ROGP 123 Don Johnson|
|Creator||Johnson, Clete Donald (Don), Jr., 1948-|
|Dates||2010 November 29|
|Repository||Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies|
|Abstract||Don Johnson was elected to the State Senate from the 47th District in 1987 to fill the unexpired term of the late Senator Parks Brown. Johnson, a Democrat, served on the Judiciary, Reapportionment, Agriculture, Transportation, Finance, Public Utilities, and Rules Committees and was chair of the Appropriations Committee from 1990 to 1992. He was a member of the Senate Democratic Party Caucus Policy Committee and served as Governor Joe Frank Harris’ assistant administration floor leader in the senate from 1989 until 1992. He discusses his service as a state senator, as a Representative in Congress, and his opinion on party politics in Georgia.|
Reflections on Georgia Politics began in the fall of 2006 at Young Harris College, as a lecture and discussion program hosted by Georgia political veteran Bob Short. In late 2007, the Richard B. Russell Library began producing the program as an oral history video series to further illuminate and personalize the tectonic shifts that occurred in Georgia politics in the late twentieth century.
Reflections on Georgia Politics Oral History Collection, ROGP 123, Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia Libraries, Athens, Georgia, 30602-1641.
Resources may be used under the guidelines described by the U.S. Copyright Office in Section 107, Title 17, United States Code (Fair use). Parties interested in production or commercial use of the resources should contact the Russell Library for a fee schedule.
C. Donald (Don) Johnson, Jr., was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 30, 1948. He earned a B.A. degree in history in 1970 and a Juris Doctorate in 1973 from the University of Georgia. Johnson served in the United States Air Force from 1973-1977 and was stationed in California, Colorado, and the Republic of Turkey as a member of the Office of the Judge Advocate General. He was awarded the Air Force Commendation Medal and was discharged with the rank of Captain. In 1978, he received a Master of Law degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science, University of London.
Prior to returning to Royston as a partner in the law firm of Johnson and Vandiver, Johnson held a variety of positions. He served an aide to the late Congressman Phil Landrum as well as legislative council for the U.S. House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee. He also acted as corporate counsel for the Continental Illinois Bank of Chicago and was a member of the Atlanta law firm of Powell, Goldstein, Frazer & Murphy.
Johnson was elected to the State Senate from the 47th District in 1987 to fill the unexpired term of the late Senator Parks Brown. The 47th District includes Bank, Elbert, Franklin, Hart, and portions of Jackson and Madison counties. Johnson, a Democrat, served on the Judiciary, Reapportionment, Agriculture, Transportation, Finance, Public Utilities, and Rules committees and was chair of the Appropriations Committee from 1990 to 1992. He was a member of the Senate Democratic Party Caucus Policy Committee and served as Governor Joe Frank Harris’ assistant administration floor leader in the senate from 1989 until 1992.
During his five years as State Senator, Johnson major legislative accomplishments included: author of toll free county-wide calls legislation which expanded local telephone service area in 129 counties at no additional cost to consumers; principle sponsor of Governor Joe Frank Harris’ anti-drug legislation package which gave Georgia the toughest anti-drug laws in the United States; author of civil restitution laws providing business and property owners an easier means of recovering losses from shoplifters and vandals and strengthening bad check laws; author of State Hobbs Act and constitutional amendment for circuit wide grand jury to combat political corruption and misuse of public office for personal gain; and author of reporter shield law which protects against unnecessary infringement upon confidential sources of information.
In addition to his standing committee posts, Johnson was chairman of the Georgia Senate Export Expansion Study Committee, which considered ways the state could encourage the export of Georgia products to overseas markets and boost the state’s economy. He also served on several other interim study committees including the Senate Study Committee on Rural Economic Development, the Senate Transportation Study Committee, and the Senate Fraudulent Check Study Committee.
In 1992, Johnson successfully ran for the United States Congress as a Democrat representing Georgia’s 10th District, succeeding Doug Barnard, Jr. of Augusta. While in office, Johnson served on the Armed Services Committee and Science Space and Technology Committee. He acted as a delegate to the North Atlantic Assembly (NATO's legislative advisory body) in Berlin and Copenhagen and monitored Russia's first parliamentary (Duma) election in Moscow in December 1993.
After an unsuccessful bid for a second term, Johnson spent a number of years in Washington, D.C., where he specialized in international trade and investment policy, national security and foreign policy. He was vice-president for government relations and public policy with Fleishman-Hillard Government Relations, Inc. In 1998, President Bill Clinton appointed him ambassador and he served for two and a half years as chief textile negotiator and principal advisor to both the president and the United States Trade Representative on all textile and apparel trade matters.
Johnson then became a partner in the law firm Patton Boggs until he accepted an appointment in 2004 as the director of the University of Georgia School of Law’s Dean Rusk Center. specializing in global legal and policy issues. Currently, Johnson resides in Royston with his wife Suzanne Spratlin.
Part 1: Don Johnson recalls growing up in Royston, Georgia. He discusses his father's activities as a lawyer, including as a prosecutor in the Lemuel Penn murder trial. Johnson recalls securing a job with Phil Landrum in Washington, D.C. and subsequently working on the staff of the Ways and Means Committee.
Johnson discusses his time in the Air Force stationed in California and then Turkey. He then became interested in international trade and attended the London School of Economics before moving to Chicago to work in international finance. Johnson reflects on his decision to run for state senate in 1987. He recalls presenting legislation for toll-free county-wide calling and how he attained his committee appointments.
Part 2: Johnson recalls serving as assistant floor leader for Joe Frank Harris and running for majority floor leader in the State Senate. He discusses his work as the chairman of the Appropriations Committee and how it inspired him to run for Congress in 1992. Johnson discusses the difficulty of passing a budget in 1993 and recalls the trepidation he faced in response to voting for it.
Part 3: Johnson reflects on his appointment to the Speaker's working group on policy and recalls several other groups he was a part of. He discusses his votes regarding gun control and reflects on a meeting with some NRA officials. Johnson recalls wanting to support Hillarycare but comments on feeling discouraged once it was released. He goes on to reflect on party politics in Georgia, commenting on party switchers, split ticket voting, and minority and labor union support. Johnson discusses NAFTA, working as an Ambassador, and working at the Dean Rusk Center.