Pioneering Civil Rights Champion Grantland Johnson Leaves Legacy

Grantland Johnson (front row, right) with the staff of the Central Labor Council at the Seventh Annual Salute to Labor Awards Dinner. From left to right, Tom Lawson, Georgi De La Huerta, Bill Camp, Teresa Villasenor, Matthew Taylor and Johnson.
Grantland Johnson (front row, right) with the staff of the Central Labor Council at the Seventh Annual Salute to Labor Awards Dinner. From left to right, Tom Lawson, Georgi De La Huerta, Bill Camp, Teresa Villasenor, Matthew Taylor and Johnson.

Local Icon Was Legendary for His Public Service

Social justice icon Grantland Johnson, a tireless fighter for civil rights and renowned public servant, passed away in August. He was 65.

“Grantland was a great man who changed our city and our country for the better,” said CLC Executive Secretary Bill Camp, a friend and colleague of Johnson. “He never stopped fighting to protect our most vulnerable and make our communities better and stronger.”

Johnson was one of Sacramento’s best known and revered labor and social justice advocates. Raised in Del Paso Heights, he was elected to the Sacramento City Council in 1983. There, he worked hard to improve the city’s most troubled neighborhoods, including helping to establish the Neighborhood Services Department.

In 1986, he became the first African American to be elected to the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors. During his long career, he also served as the Chairman of the Regional Transit Board, the Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under Bill Clinton and California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Johnson was one of only a handful of people to ever serve office at the city, county, state and federal levels.

Johnson passed away from complications from diabetes. He is survived by his wife, Lee, daughter Patrice and sisters Catherine Harris and Rose Morris.

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