Hank Johnson

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Hank Johnson
Hank Johnson Official.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 4th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2007
Preceded by Cynthia McKinney
Personal details
Born (1954-10-02) October 2, 1954 (age 64)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Mereda Davis Johnson
Residence Lithonia, Georgia
Alma mater Clark Atlanta University, Texas Southern University
Occupation Attorney
Religion Sōka Gakkai Buddhism

Henry C. "Hank" Johnson Jr. (born October 2, 1954) is the U.S. Representative for Georgia's 4th congressional district, serving since 2007. He is a member of the Democratic Party. The district is based in DeKalb County, a largely suburban county east of Atlanta. It also includes portions of Gwinnett, Newton, and all of Rockdale counties;[1] the district's boundaries have been redrawn, in accordance with the results of the 2010 United States Census, since Congressman Johnson's initial election victory in 2006.[2] He is one of only two Buddhists, the other being Hawaii's Mazie Hirono, to serve in the United States Congress.[3]

Life, education and career

Johnson grew up in Washington, D.C. His father worked for the Bureau of Prisons and was the director of classifications and paroles. Up to that time, he was the highest ranking African-American in the bureau.[4]

Johnson graduated from Clark College (now Clark Atlanta University) in 1976, was a member of Omega Psi Phi Kappa Alpha Alpha Chapter, Decatur, Georgia, and Texas Southern University's Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston in 1979; he practiced law in Decatur, Georgia, for more than 25 years.

Johnson was elected to the DeKalb County Commission in 2000 and served two terms. Prior to his service on the Commission, he worked as an Associate Magistrate Judge for ten years.[5]

U.S. House of Representatives

Committee assignments

Political positions

In 2008, Johnson was elected to serve as regional whip for Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida.[6]

On November 18, 2008, Johnson was elected Regional Whip for the Eighth Region (GA, FL, MS, AL, U.S. Virgin Islands) by the Democratic Caucus.[6]

Position on the Iraq War

On January 25, 2007, Johnson responded to U.S. President George W. Bush's State of the Union address by criticizing the war in Iraq, saying "This war has proven to be one of the gravest missteps in the recent history of our country. It is time for President Bush to face the music and respond to the urgent demands of a frustrated country."[7]

On February 8, 2007, Johnson introduced his first bill: a resolution requesting that the Secretary of Defense Robert Gates take U.S. troops off of street patrol duty in Iraq. "There is no military solution for the civil war in Iraq," said Johnson, "It is time for Iraqi troops, who have been trained, to assume responsibility for patrolling their own streets. Clearly, deploying our troops this way has only escalated the number of U.S. casualties, and this must stop".[8] According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Johnson's resolution was "interesting in that it goes beyond broad directives and proposes something very specific".[9]

On March 23, 2007, Johnson voted to pass H.R. 1591, the "U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007". Amongst many other provisions, this bill provided $124 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and required that President Bush withdraw American forces from Iraq by mid-2008; it additionally prohibited the use of funds offered under the act to deploy any troops to Iraq unless the military has certified to congressional appropriators in advance that the military unit is fully mission-capable (while authorizing the president to waive the prohibition and deployment limits on a unit-by-unit basis for reasons of national security). The proposed bill also set requirements for Department of Homeland Security contracts, subcontracts and task orders, and required that each federal agency that had awarded at least $1 billion worth of contracts in the preceding fiscal year develop and implement a plan to minimize the use of no-bid and cost-reimbursement contracts; provided funds for disaster relief and recovery related to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, for influenza pandemic response programs, for livestock disaster assistance, and made appropriations to bolster Medicare and Medicaid; it amended fair labor laws to phase-in an increase of the federal minimum wage to $7.25 per hour and applied these wage requirements to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and to American Samoa; addressed several tax issues by including tax breaks for small businesses, making certain dependents ineligible for the lowest capital gains rate, and lengthening the period of failure to notify a taxpayer of liability before interest and certain penalties must be suspended. The measure also increased the amount of any required installment of estimated tax otherwise due in 2012 from a corporation with assets of $1 billion or more.[10] Johnson attracted attention by blogging about his decision to vote for the bill.[11] H.R. 1591 passed the House on 23 March 2007, and the Senate on 26 April, but President Bush, citing[12] the Iraqi withdrawal timeline incorporated among the many particulars as being unacceptable, vetoed the bill on 1 May 2007; Congress tried to override the veto the next day, but proved unable to do so.[13]

On May 24, 2007, Johnson voted to cut funding for the Iraq War unless provisions included binding requirements upon the Iraqi government and provisions were additionally made for the redeployment of American armed forces from Iraq.[14]

Economic positions

Johnson voted against the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) bailout bill in November 2008.

He voted in favor of the Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the stimulus package supported by Democrats in Congress and President Barack Obama.

In 2007, Johnson's H.Con.Res.80, a resolution calling for peaceful resolution to the Ugandan civil war between the Government of Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army, unanimously passed the House and Senate. Johnson's first successful piece of legislation, it was jointly introduced in the Senate by Democratic Senator Russ Feingold and Republican Senator Sam Brownback.

Joe Wilson

In 2009, Johnson demanded censure of Rep. Joe Wilson following Wilson's "you lie" exclamation during President Obama's speech, delivered to a joint session of the 111th United States Congress on September 9, 2009, concerning his plan for health care reform; Congressman Johnson argued that the comment had an unseen racial undertone and that, if Wilson was not formally rebuked, "we will have people with white hoods running through the countryside again".[15]

Comments on Guam tipping over

During a House Armed Services Committee hearing on March 25, 2010[16] concerning the U.S. military installation on the island of Guam, Johnson said to Admiral Robert F. Willard, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, "My fear is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize", to which Admiral Willard replied, "We don't anticipate that."[17][18] Johnson's office later said Johnson is simply a tremendous deadpan and that he was using a facetious metaphor.[19]

Effectiveness in Congress

In 2014, Johnson was named the 18th most effective Democrat in the 112th Congress [out of 204 Democratic members] according to a new study by Vanderbilt University and the University of Virginia (UVA).[20] He was also ranked higher than any of his Republican colleagues from Georgia. The study judged effectiveness by looking at a lawmaker’s “proven ability to advance a member’s agenda items through the legislative process and into law.” The scorecard looked at the number of bills a member introduced or sponsored; the significance of the bills; and how far each made it in the legislative process. [21]

Washingtonian Best & Worst of 2014

On October 5, 2014 The Washingtonian published their 15th biennial "Best & Worst of Congress" list. Rep. Hank Johnson was voted "Worst Speaker" and "Most Clueless" by congressional staffers.[22]

Political campaigns


In 2006, Johnson challenged Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney in the Democratic primary for the 4th District—the real contest in this heavily Democratic, black-majority district. He forced McKinney into a runoff by holding her under 50% in the July 18, 2006 Democratic primary: McKinney got 47.1% of the vote; Johnson 44.4%, and a third candidate got 8.5%.[23]

In the runoff of August 8, 2006, although there were about 8,000 more voters, McKinney got about the same number of votes as in the July primary. Johnson won with 41,178 votes (59%); McKinney got 28,832 (41%).[24]

In November, he trounced the Republican candidate, Catherine Davis, with 76% of the vote—one of the largest percentages for a Democrat in a contested election, and the largest in the history of the district. However, he had effectively clinched a seat in Congress with his victory in the primary. The 4th is one of the most Democratic districts in the South; with a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+22 at the time of the election, it was the second-most Democratic district in Georgia (only the neighboring 5th is more Democratic).

On October 6, 2006, Congressional Quarterly's "On Their Way," which features promising candidates soon-to-arrive in Washington, featured Johnson.[25]

Johnson made aggressive use of the internet to court supporters and attract national attention to his primary challenge against McKinney. The National Journal wrote that of all Congressional candidates nationwide in 2006, "Johnson had the most unique blog strategy by far."[26] The National Journal ranked Johnson's use of the internet to defeat McKinney—and the broader trend of challengers using the blogosphere to challenge entrenched incumbents—as the third most significant blog-related story of 2006.[27] Johnson was the first Congressional candidate invited to blog[citation needed] for The Hill's Congress Blog, typically reserved for Members of Congress.[28] "I'm tremendously excited about the opportunity to use this unique medium to strengthen democracy by increasing open interaction between constituents and candidates," Johnson wrote. "I hope to provide you with an inside view of this hotly-contested, high stakes runoff."


Johnson was unopposed for reelection in 2008, winning 99.9% of the vote against write-in candidates Loren Christopher Collins, Faye Coffield and Jacob Perasso.

Johnson was the first Democratic congressman in Georgia to publicly endorse Barack Obama in the 2008 Democratic presidential primary on July 30, 2007.[29]


Johnson won reelection over the Republican candidate, business owner Liz Carter, gaining 131,760 of 176,467 votes, or 74.67% of the total. Carter, who is white, made headlines during the campaign by maintaining that she had been initially barred from appearing at a candidate forum hosted by Newsmakers Journal due to her race, an assertion subsequently denied in a statement by the forum's organizers.[30]

Personal life

Johnson's wife, Mereda Davis Johnson, is an attorney; they have two children.[31]

In December 2009, Johnson revealed that he had been battling Hepatitis C (HCV) for over a decade, which resulted in slow speech and a tendency to regularly get "lost in thought in the middle of a discussion".[32] Johnson said that he learned he had the disease in 1998 but did not know how he contracted it. HCV-induced liver dysfunction often leads to hepatic encephalopathy, a cause of confusion. Symptoms are often reversible with treatment.[33] The disease damaged his liver and led to thyroid problems.[32] He was treated with a combination of ribavirin and interferon at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.[32] In February 2010, Johnson successfully completed an experimental treatment for Hepatitis C, which resulted in restored mental acuity, weight gain and increased energy.[34]


  1. Williams, Dave (2006-08-04). "Low-key primary turns into high-profile runoff". Gwinnett (Georgia) Daily Post. Archived from the original on 13 August 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Tatum, Crystal (23 August 2011). "Newton to get new congressional districts". The Newton Citizen. Newtoncitizen.com. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 7 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Jonathan Tilove. "New Congress brings with it religious firsts". Newhouse News Service. Archived from the original on 13 December 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Jacobs, Sonji; Mae Gentry; Ernie Suggs (2006-07-20). "Hank Johnson aims to energize McKinney's foes". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved 2006-08-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  5. Land, Greg (2006-07-31). "Johnson latest DeKalb lawyer in national eye, Criminal defense lawyer and ex-magistrate judge faces incumbent McKinney in runoff". Daily Report. Retrieved 2006-08-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Johnson (GA04) | Press Release | Rep. Hank Johnson Elected Regional Whip for GA, FL, MS, AL, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico". House.gov. 18 November 2008. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 2010-07-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. "Bush speech gets mixed reaction from Georgia lawmakers". Associated Press. 2007-01-23. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-24.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Johnson wants Iraqis to start street patrol". Gwinnett Daily Post. 2007-02-11. Archived from the original on 2007-02-18. Retrieved 2007-02-11.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "Political Insider" (2 February 2007). "An Iraq resolution without the wiggle room". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Ajc.com. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 11 February 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "The U.S. Congress Votes Database" (23 March 2007). "110th Congress, 1st session, House vote 186". The Washington Post. Washingtonpost.com. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 23 March 2007.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "Exit Strategy: Why I Supported the Iraq Accountability Act". Hank Johnson. 2007-03-23. Archived from the original on 2007-03-27. Retrieved 2007-03-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. President George W. Bush. "House Document 110-31 - Veto Message On H.R. 1591". U.S. Government Printing Office. GPO.gov. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 7 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. "H.R. 1591 (110th): U.S. Troop Readiness, Veterans' Care, Katrina Recovery, and Iraq Accountability Appropriations Act, 2007". GovTrack. Govtrack.us. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 7 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Knowlton, Brian (24 May 2007). "Bush praises Democrats' compromise on Iraq funding". The New York Times. NYTimes.com. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 2007-05-30.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Isenstadt, Alex (16 September 2009). "In the race from race, Democrats rebut Jimmy Carter". Politico. Politico.Com. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 2010-07-12.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. "- FISCAL YEAR 2011 NATIONAL DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION ACT--BUDGET REQUESTS FROM THE U.S. PACIFIC COMMAND AND U.S. FORCES KOREA". Gpo.gov. Retrieved 18 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Wilkie, Christie (31 March 2010). "Rep. Hank Johnson: Guam could 'tip over and capsize'". The Hill. Washingtonscene.thehill.com. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 12 August 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "'Congressman Most In Need Of A Drug Test.avi'". YouTube.com. 2010-03-31. Archived from the original (mp4) on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 1 April 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. Galloway, Jim (April 1, 2010). "Your morning jolt: Hank Johnson and a 'capsizing' Guam". The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Political Insider: blogs.ajc.com. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "The Lawmakers Homepage". Thelawmakers.org. Retrieved 18 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Study: Rep. Johnson most effective member of GA Delegation in 112th Congress". Hankjohnson.house.gov. Retrieved 18 November 2014.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "The Best & Worst of Congress, 2014". The Washingtonian. Retrieved 30 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. "Georgia Election Results: Official Results of the July 18, 2006 Primary Election". Brian P. Kemp, Georgia Secretary of State. Sos.georgia.gov. 16 July 2006. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Democrat U.S. House District 4". WSBTV Action News 2 Atlanta. 2006-08-08. Archived from the original on August 13, 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. "On Their Way: Johnson Hopes to be More Effective Than McKinney". Congressional Quarterly. 2006-10-06. Archived from the original on October 27, 2006. Retrieved 20 October 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. Glover, Danny (15 August 2006). "The Online Curse Of Incumbency". National Journal. Archived from the original on August 30, 2006. Retrieved 2008-04-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. Glover, Danny (12 January 2007). "Blog Power: The Top 10 Blog Stories Of 2006". National Journal. Archived from the original on January 7, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-28.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. Johnson, Hank (2006-07-24). "The beauty of politics in a democracy". The Hill's Congress Blog. The National Journal. Archived from the original on August 18, 2006. Retrieved 2006-08-17.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. Galloway, Jim (30 July 2007). "Hank Johnson pitches his tent with the Obama camp". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Political Insider: blogs.ajc.com. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 29 June 2009.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  30. Stirgus, Eric (10 June 2010). "Was candidate excluded because of her race?". PolitiFactGeorgia. politifact.com. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 7 July 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  31. "Hank Johnson Official Biography". Hank Johnson Official Website. Hank Johnson. Retrieved 30 March 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 Keefe, Bob (7 December 2009). "U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson battling hepatitis C". Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Ajc.com. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 31 March 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  33. Lua error in Module:Citation/CS1/Identifiers at line 47: attempt to index field 'wikibase' (a nil value).
  34. "Associated Press" (8 July 2010). "Rep. Hank Johnson: Health is better, ready to get back to D.C." Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Ajc.com. Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 31 July 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Cynthia McKinney
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Georgia's 4th congressional district

Succeeded by
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Keith Ellison
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Jim Jordan