Spotlight on: 'Lyman T. Johnson'
Lyman T. Johnson has earned
the title of "The Great Forerunner."
He was one of the most prominent and highly
respected educators in the history of Kentucky ,
having devoted the greater part of his life to
the intellectual development of young people.
Best known as the plaintiff whose successful legal
challenge opened the University of Kentucky
to students of all races and ethnicities in 1949.
As a teacher, humanitarian and freedom fighter,
he worked tirelessly to change the brutally
segregated society into which he was born.
A highlight in his life of service was his pioneering
effort to open the University of Kentucky graduate
school to people of the African-American Ethnic
group as well as to all other students -- regardless of
their "racial" categorization or their ethnic background.
In 1949, through his tenacious personal
struggle and sacrifice, he won a legal battle,
which resulted in the desegregation of the
University of Kentucky graduate school.
This landmark legal victory ultimately resulted
in the opening of schools of higher education
to all students, regardless of race or ethnicity.
Born in Columbia , Tennessee in 1906, Johnson
was the grandson of former chattel-slaves.
In 1926, he received his high school diploma from
the preparatory division of Knoxville College.
After earning his Bachelor's degree in Greek from
Virginia Union University in 1930; he went on to
receive a Master's degree in History from the
University of Michigan in 1931; and he also served
in the United States Navy during World War II.
When he pursued his doctoral degree, in 1948, Johnson was
compelled to file a Federal lawsuit against the University
of Kentucky in order to challenge the state's law that
prohibited people who were categorized as "black" and
people who were categorized as "white" from attending
the same academic institutions as students or instructors.
(Prior to pursuing a doctoral degree, he had spent 16
years at Louisville's Central High School teaching
History, Economics, and Mathematics -- and was a
local leader within the district in the fight to equalize
the pay of all teachers, regardless of race or ethnicity.)
His challenge was successful, which allowed him to
enter UK in 1949 as a 43-year-old graduate student.
Although he left UK before earning a doctoral
degree, the University presented him with an
Honorary Doctor of Letters degree in 1979.
Johnson continued teaching at Central until 1966, before
spending another seven years in the Jefferson County
Public Schools as an Assistant Principal at several schools.
He was also a member of the Jefferson County Board
of Education from 1978 to 1982. Lyman T. Johnson
Middle School was named in his honor in 1980.
In addition to opening the door for thousands of minority
students, he also led struggles to integrate neighborhoods,
swimming pools, schools, and restaurants.
He also headed the Louisville chapter of the
National Association for the Advancement
of Colored People for six years.
He died in Louisville , Kentucky in 1997 at the age of 91.
The University of Kentucky currently offers a
fellowship program in his name for older and
minority graduate students at the university.
Recipients are known as Lyman
T. Johnson Postdoctoral Fellows.
Lyman T. Johnson was a Mixed-Race man
of a Multi-Generational Multiracially-Mixed
(MGM-Mixed) ancestral lineage who was
also born to two parents who were of the
African-American (AA) Ethnic grouping.
PICTURES OF L. T. JOHNSON