Harry S. Johnson
Whiteford Taylor & Preston, LLP
Harry S. Johnson is proud to be a man of firsts.
In 1986, Johnson was the first African-American lawyer to move from associate to an equity partner in a majority law firm in Baltimore. He was also the first African-American president of the Maryland State Bar Association (MSBA), in 2003-2004.
Johnson was also one of the originators of the state bar association’s Leadership Academy, which has been training young lawyers to be community and bar association leaders for more than 20 years.
“No one who is the first at anything does it alone,” Johnson said. “There were many people who watched and supported my progress as a lawyer, and as a member of the various bar associations. Maryland had a relatively segregated legal profession. I was a very visible sign that things were changing, and the community and the profession have benefited by having an inclusive and diverse workforce.”
Monise A. Brown, a family magistrate in the Circuit Court of Charles County, met Johnson at a bar association conference in 2011 and he eventually became her mentor. She said Johnson is a trusted and effective teacher of young lawyers.
“Harry is well respected and admired in the legal community,” Brown said. “When there are critical moments, in making a career decision, or an ethical dilemma arises, I call Harry and he helps me through the process or directs me to resources where I get the information I need to be prudent and professional.”
One highlight of Johnson’s community service was his tenure on the board of the Baltimore Community Foundation from 2005 to 2017. He was on the Executive Committee and started the first Race, Equity, and Inclusion Committee and co-chaired it for six years. “Our work in this area included training staff, board members, and community members on how race, equity, and inclusion impact relations and decision-making in the community,” he said.
For Johnson, one event stands out from his time as MSBA president. “One moving moment for me occurred when a group of older African-American attorneys, some very well known, told me they joined the MSBA for the first time to support me as president. I was humbled by their support.”