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Jack Johnson

Jack Johnson was born on April 3, 1949 in Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina to Adolphus and Ermine Johnson. Johnson graduated from Haut Gap High School on John’s Island, South Carolina in 1966 and received his B.S. degree from Benedict College in 1970. He attended Howard University School of Law, obtaining his J.D. degree in 1975. Johnson served in the United States Army Reserves as a combat medic during the Vietnam War.

In 1975, Johnson worked as an attorney in the Office of Chief Counsel with the Internal Revenue Service until 1984. For the next three years, he served as a law professor at North Carolina Central University’s School of Law. Johnson then became the Deputy State Attorney, managing the day-to-day operations of the prosecutor’s office, before becoming the State’s Attorney for Prince George’s County, Maryland. In this position, Johnson recruited a diverse, highly motivated and well-trained staff of prosecutors, investigators, administrators and support personnel.

In December 2002, Johnson was elected the sixth County Executive of Prince George’s County. He made history shortly after being elected to office by increasing the county’s budget by more than $1 billion. Johnson’s budget priorities focused on education and public safety. He increased the school funding by over $100 million and is also responsible for building the largest police force in the county’s history and saving the county’s hospital system. Johnson was re-elected to a second term in 2006.

Johnson has served as a board member of the Prince George’s County United Way and the Coalition of Concerned Black Christian Men. He has received the NAACP President Award and the National Forum of Black Public Administrators’ First Leadership Award.

Johnson resides in Mitchellville, Maryland with his wife, Leslie. They have three adult children.

Johnson was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 26, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.163

Sex

Male

Interview Date

4/26/2007

Last Name

Johnson

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Haut Gap High School

Howard University School of Law

Benedict College

Edith L. Frierson Elementary School

First Name

Jack

Birth City, State, Country

Wadmalaw Island

HM ID

JOH30

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hilton Head, South Carolina

Favorite Quote

It All Works Out.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

4/3/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Rice

Short Description

State deputy attorney and county government official Jack Johnson (1949 - ) was elected County Chief Executive of Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Employment

AXA Financial

North Carolina Central University

Internal Revenue Service

Prince George's County (MD)

Prince George's County Executive’s Office

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Jack Johnson's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Jack Johnson lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jack Johnson describes his mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Jack Johnson describes his mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Jack Johnson describes Edisto Island, South Carolina in the early 20th century

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Jack Johnson talks about his mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Jack Johnson describes his family's land in Edisto Island, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Jack Johnson recalls his mother's adoption of a Haitian refugee

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Jack Johnson describes his father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Jack Johnson describes his paternal great-grandfather

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Jack Johnson talks about his great-uncle's nickname

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Jack Johnson recalls spending time with his paternal grandfather

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Jack Johnson describes his father's occupation

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Jack Johnson talks about his father's education

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Jack Johnson lists his siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Jack Johnson recalls how his parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Jack Johnson describes the sights and sounds of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Jack Johnson describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Jack Johnson remembers his home on Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Jack Johnson describes the Gullah language and culture

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Jack Johnson recalls listening to the radio as a young boy

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Jack Johnson talks about traditional Gullah foods

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Jack Johnson describes Rockville Elementary School in Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Jack Johnson recalls starting a year early at Rockville Elementary School

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Jack Johnson remembers his teachers at Rockville Elementary School

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Jack Johnson describes himself as a student

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Jack Johnson recalls attending Haut Gap High School in Johns Island, South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Jack Johnson describes his activities at Haut Gap High School in Johns Island, South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Jack Johnson recalls his decision to attend Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Jack Johnson remembers avoiding the U.S. Army draft

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Jack Johnson describes his experiences at Benedict College

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Jack Johnson recalls Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Jack Johnson remembers the guest speakers at Benedict College

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Jack Johnson recalls working for Equitable Life Assurance Society of America

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Jack Johnson remembers joining the U.S. Army Reserve

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Jack Johnson recalls befriending a white South Carolinian in the U.S. Army

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Jack Johnson talks about his decision to attend Howard University School of Law

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Jack Johnson describes his experiences at Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Jack Johnson remembers Howard University president James Cheek

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Jack Johnson remembers his classmates at Howard University School of Law

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Jack Johnson recalls working for the Internal Revenue Service in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Jack Johnson remembers joining the Internal Revenue Service's national office

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Jack Johnson describes his work in partnerships and corporation transactions

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Jack Johnson talks about challenges for African American lawyers at the Internal Revenue Service

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Jack Johnson remembers teaching at North Carolina Central University School of Law in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Jack Johnson recalls working in admissions at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Jack Johnson describes his wife and children

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Jack Johnson recalls serving as the deputy to the state's attorney in Prince George's County, Maryland

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Jack Johnson talks about running for state's attorney

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Jack Johnson remembers addressing police brutality in Prince George's County, Maryland

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Jack Johnson recalls his success as state's attorney of Prince George's County, Maryland

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Jack Johnson describes his concept of a livable community, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Jack Johnson describes his concept of a livable community, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Jack Johnson talks about the opportunities and challenges in Prince George's County, Maryland

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Jack Johnson recalls being scrutinized by the media

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Jack Johnson remembers his family's Sunday traditions

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Jack Johnson reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Jack Johnson shares a message for future generations

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Jack Johnson describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

6$6

DAStory

2$4

DATitle
Jack Johnson recalls serving as the deputy to the state's attorney in Prince George's County, Maryland
Jack Johnson remembers addressing police brutality in Prince George's County, Maryland
Transcript
And after I left the, the teaching [at North Carolina Central University School of Law, Durham, North Carolina], my classmate, one of my schoolmates rather, a guy by the name of Alexander Williams [Alexander Williams, Jr.], ran for state's attorney in Prince George's County. And as Prince George's County is the second largest county in the State of Maryland and at, at that time, you begin to have the migration of the middle class African Americans from the District of Columbia [Washington, D.C.]. And many of them were migrating east into Prince George's County, so the numbers were changing. And one night, Alex came to my home and said, "Look, I'm going to run for state's attorney, and I would like for you to be involved in my campaign, and I would like for you to be the treasurer." He knew of my financial background. And so, I jumped at the opportunity to help him out. And, but as the campaign evolved, I got more and more involved in the campaign, not only in terms of treasurer, but running a lot of the day to day activities. And after the--we won, and it was, it, it was just a transforming victory for Prince George's County. It was the first time that they had elected an African American countywide, and this was really a big shift in politics. Alex asked me to come in and be his deputy. And so, so the chance to do something different like that was exciting. And so, I went in, and I ran the office for him--ran the budget, got involved in all of the criminal justice issues; worked in the community.$(Simultaneous) And so, when I got into the, the office, we begin to chal- not challenge, but take on the whole issue of police brutality. Our police department had a reputation for that, and it was well known, and probably deserved. And so, that was a really challenging prosecution, but not so much in terms of the prosecution, but the politics of it. I didn't realize, at the time, how the--institutionally, the police get so much support from all the politicians in the state, all the institutions, the newspapers--you have it, and the, and the judges, and the whole criminal justice system. And so, that those cases were very challenging and, in fact, the first case that I charged, I could not get anyone in the office to prosecute the case. So, we had to--I end up firing two of the, the lawyers for failing to carry out their constitutional duties to, to ensure that justice is served fairly. And, and that, interestingly, there is a guy that I had met named Lloyd Johnson, last name--he called me. He was a prosecutor. He said, "Jack [HistoryMaker Jack Johnson], if you hire me, I'll, I'll try the cases." And so, I hired Lloyd, and Lloyd came on, and tried those cases. We had a number of all the cases. And then, I set out to, to make certain that the face of the office represented the face of Prince George's County [Maryland]. And so, we began to hire a lot of young African American lawyers. And there were lots of criticism by the media claiming that my lawyers were not as well qualified as traditional lawyers had been, and those kinds of things. But not only were they well qualified, they were more qualified, and they've all done so well over the years. And so, those were the, the eight years of my prosecution years.$$What was the makeup of the police department?$$Well, they were probably getting 40 percent African American at the time, pretty close to it, at least 30 percent. But the, the, it was kind of interesting how so many of the African Americans, or a number of them, had taken on that whole custom. And so, when I talked about prosecution, I had to prosecute black officers, as well as white officers. It wasn't that--$$Okay, okay (simultaneous).$$--(simultaneous) we were prosecuting only white officers.$$Um-hm.

Mercer Cook

Mercer Cook, born May 31, 1930 in Washington, D.C., is an accomplished attorney in public and private practice with an interesting family story. His great grandfather John Hartwell Cook graduated from Oberlin College during the Civil War and was reportedly the first Dean of Howard University Law School. His grandfather, classically trained composer Will Marion (Mercer) Cook (1869-1945) collaborated on Broadway musicals with Paul Laurence Dunbar and Bert Williams. His father, (Will) Mercer Cook (1903-1987) was a noted scholar and translator from Howard University who served as United States Ambassador to Senegal and Nigeria.

Cook grew up in Atlanta, attending Oglethorpe Elementary School. He graduated from Dunbar High School in Washington D.C. in 1947. Cook earned a B.A. from Amherst College in 1951. He spent some time in Europe before returning to finish his J.D. from the University of Chicago in 1956. Cook’s brother, Jacques is also an attorney. From 1957, he was in private practice. In 1967, he was hired by the Cook (Illinois) County Legal Assistance Foundation. In 1970, Cook switched to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. He was Assistant State’s Attorney from 1970 to1989 and Deputy State’s Attorney from 1989-1993. From 1993 to 1996 Cook worked for the legal firm Gordon and Pikarski. He has remained in private practice since 1996.

Cook has three children: Antoinette, a lawyer, Mercer, a managing director of Citigroup, and Janice, senior vice president of New York City Investment Fund. Cook and his wife, Edwina, live in Chicago.

Cook passed away on January 4, 2018.

Accession Number

A2003.300

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/16/2003

Last Name

Cook

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Paul Laurence Dunbar High School

Amherst College

Oglethorpe Elementary School

University of Chicago

First Name

Mercer

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

COO03

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

Antoinette Cook Bush

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hilton Head, South Carolina

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

5/31/1930

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Steak

Death Date

1/4/2018

Short Description

State deputy attorney Mercer Cook (1930 - ) has served as Assistant State’s Attorney and Deputy State’s Attorney for Cook County, after which he went into private practice.

Employment

Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago

Cook County States Attorney's Office

Gordon & Pikarski

Main Sponsor
Main Sponsor URL
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Mercer Cook's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Mercer Cook lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Mercer Cook talks about his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Mercer Cook talks about his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Mercer Cook describes his paternal grandfather

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Mercer Cook talks about his paternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Mercer Cook tells a story about the origin of his grandfather's name and the origin of the 'Mercer' name

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Mercer Cook describes his father's childhood and education

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Mercer Cook describes living all over the world because of his father profession

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Mercer Cook talks about the his father's friends

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Mercer Cook talks about visiting his parents in Niger

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Mercer Cook describes his mother and his brother

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Mercer Cook talks about the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Mercer Cook remembers W. E. B. Du Bois and many other great African Americans his father knew

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Mercer Cook talks about his father's U.S. government friends in Paris, France

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Mercer Cook talks about Josephine Baker

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Mercer Cook talks about his father's friends and his paternal grandmother' family

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Mercer Cook describes his childhood education and teachers who helped him with English

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Mercer Cook describes going to Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. and his decision to go to Amherst College in Amherst Massachusetts

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Mercer Cook talks about going to Amherst College, Amherst, Massachusetts and trying to get a job in the U.S. State Department

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Mercer Cook talks about Richard Wright, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Mercer Cook talks about Richard Wright, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Mercer Cook talks about Negritude and Francophone writers his father knew in Paris, France

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Mercer Cook describes his experience at University of Chicago Law School in Chicago, Illinois and graduating in 1956

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Mercer Cook talks about his first wife, his children and his second wife

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Mercer Cook describes his work after law school and his relationship with HistoryMaker Truman K. Gibson

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Mercer Cook describes his career progression at the Cook County Legal Defense Foundation and Cook County State's Attorney's Office

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Mercer Cook describes working for the Cook County Illinois Department of Public Aid and the Cook County Illinois State's Attorney's Office

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Mercer Cook discusses a case he handled involving the Elks Memorial in Chicago, Illinois, and his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Mercer Cook describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Mercer Cook talks about his future plans

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Mercer Cook reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Mercer Cook describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Mercer Cook narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$3

DAStory

5$7

DATitle
Mercer Cook describes his paternal grandfather
Mercer Cook describes working for the Cook County Illinois Department of Public Aid and the Cook County Illinois State's Attorney's Office
Transcript
Now, Will Marion Cook is a, he's a legendary musician and he's a lot, you know, he was involved with Broadway shows--$$He was.$$--and wrote a lot of music that people still playing now, but can you, kind of--$$And he also, he was a member of ASCAP [America Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers] and I still get some royalties from some of his music, not a lot of money, but, you know, it helped put me through school. (Pause) I have a, as I told you earlier, I have a paper that my dad [Will Mercer Cook] wrote in 1978, which I'll get a copy to you, which indicates the things that both his father and mother [Abbie Mitchell] did in the early 20th century.$$Right, they were both associated with Paul Laurence Dunbar, and other, Bert Williams and other black (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Right, Williams and [George] Walker. They had very interesting lives, and they travelled a lot. They went to Germany, England and played for the crown heads of Europe.$$So he really, he was classically trained--$$Yes.$$--and he played popular music as well--$$Right.$$--and knew some of the great literary figures and entertainers in the black world in those days, so, can you tell us a little bit ab- now he was your grandfather. Did you get a chance to spend much time with him?$$He would spend time with us, he would spend--my grandfather was a character. He would come stay with us. My first memories of his staying with us was when we lived in Atlanta [Georgia], and he would come stay with us and let his royalties accumulate and when he felt he had enough money he'd get in an argument with my dad, storm out of the house, although he had made reservations to travel by train to go to New York [New York]. He'd go to New York, spend two or three weeks and when the money ran out, he'd call my dad and my dad would send him money and he'd come back and stay with us until the royalties built up again. And (laughter), one of the things that he promised me, he told me, he said, "When you get to be sixteen, I want to take you with me to New York and buy you a woman," and I thought that was a wonderful thing, you know. Unfortunately, he died when I was fourteen. Years later, when I told my dad what my grandfather had said, I called him grandpa dad, I guess because I had heard him, heard my father call him dad, so I called him grandpa dad. I told my father what grandpa dad had told me and my father told me, he said, "Well he told me the same thing, and I turned sixteen and he never bought me that woman," so (laughter).$$Okay.$$But grandpa would stay with us. When we were in Haiti, he came and spent time with us. In fact, he got sick while he was in Haiti and spent some time in a Haitian hospital. He came back to the states and he died shortly thereafter.$$Okay. I heard some place that he wrote popular music for radio shows and stuff. Is that true?$$I really don't know. I know that, you know, in that document I was telling you about, it mentions the fact that my grandmother sang for one of the radio shows, but--and they never indicated who was singing until the last show that was put on because they didn't want to antagonize any possible southern listeners, white listeners.$But anyway, I worked with, with [Edward V.] Hanrahan and, in the civil area, representing [Cook] County [Illinois] officials who got sued, and, as I indicated to you earlier, we represented the Cook County Department of Public Aid and, of course, they got sued all the time and--$$What was the Department of Public Aid sued about primarily? I mean what kind of law suit?$$Not providing benefits. We did have one very interesting case, not providing proper benefits, or, you know, denying certain classes of people benefits that they felt they were entitled to. But we did have one case where case, under Hanrahan, where we sued governor, then governor [Richard Buell] Ogilvie who was seeking to reduce general assistance payments for Cook County, certain Cook County residents. We tried that case for, starting on a Friday and started, tried it all day Saturday and ended up winning and made the governor put the funds back, give the funds back to Cook County eligible recipients. I spent twenty-three years in the state's attorney's office, and I ended up being, what they call a deputy state's attorney. I was chief of the civil division--not the civil division, chief of the public interest bureau. I was in charge of about sixty lawyers and did a variety of things like being responsible for--we had a child support division, an environmental unit, criminal housing unit, sexual--no not the sexual abuse unit, that was not part of my--there were about six units that did a variety of really good things that was, we helped a lot of people and I enjoyed that. I did that for four years, but by then I was promoted by Cecil [A.] Partee in--after he lost the election, I stayed there under Jack O'Malley for two and a half years. But it was a very good experience and I really enjoyed it.