Elizabeth Fran Johnson,
D.S.W., J.D. 

(1928 -  )

Image of Elizabeth Fran Johnson from Maryland Women's Hall of Fame program.

Elizabeth Fran Johnson was born in Baltimore, Maryland on April 25, 1928. The hallmark of the life of Elizabeth Johnson is a compilation of numerous outstanding activities that collectively achieve a permanent legacy of social change through public service.

Johnson's will to excel overcame the barriers of poverty and segregation when she was just a girl. In 1944, she received the highest award in Girl Scouting that is now know as the Gold Bar. The award  is earned after the completion of rigorous requirements. She was the first African-American to receive that honor. This set the standard of excellence for all of her achievements, including developing and managing federal projects that have impacted large segments of citizens in the United States.

Elizabeth Johnson provided leadership during one of the most dynamic periods of the Federal government. She directed a large share of the newly launched Head Start programs that served at-risk children and their parents. In the early part of the 1970's, Elizabeth Johnson developed a consumer education program concerned with an  emerging health care provider, the Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO's). The last eighteen years of her career were spent in high-level positions  with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Division. She retired as the Director of Consumer Education in 1991. Numerous awards of superior performances and exemplary leadership marked her career in public safety.

For ten years she taught at a number of universities and colleges. While Dr. Johnson teaching at Bowie State University, she co-authored the undergraduate major in Social Services. One of her graduate students remembers Dr. Johnson as the teacher, "...who not only taught well, but demanded and received the best her students had to offer. She was a mentor as well as a teacher."

Dr. Johnson has continued to work for quality education as a member of the Board of Regents of Morgan State University and a number of other organizations that fund education. She served as a mentor for eight years to the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities. To honor her contributions to education, Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. established the E. Fran Johnson National Scholarship Award.

Elizabeth Johnson has served the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority for decades and is recognized as a national leader. She has served on the National Board, directed the strategic planning initiative, and developed the Standard of Operations manual that is used by a membership of 100,000 in 500 Chapters throughout the United States, Asia, Germany, the Virgin Islands and Bermuda. In 1998, she co-authored a history of the organization.

To her credit also stands decades of service to many organizations that empower women and girls. Perhaps, Dr. Johnson's greatest legacy will be her leadership in the creation of two grassroots agenda initiatives, the Legislative Agenda for Maryland women (LAMW), an outgrowth of the Maryland Commission for Women Statewide Action Agenda, and the Maryland Girls Agenda. Dr. Johnson conceived and executed the LAMW initiative when she served on the Maryland Commission for Women. Her vision was to bring diverse women from throughout Maryland, to speak in their own voices of the barriers that remained for them, and to craft  solutions. The Maryland Girls Agenda is unique in the nation because it involves the direction of girls at every stage. It was created to address the extreme difficulties girls are experiencing in their transition to adulthood.

Throughout the years Elizabeth F. Johnson has been honored on more that forty occasions for excellence in service to organizations and religion. Four times she has received Women of the Year award from national organizations. The National Coalition of 100 Black Women recentlty awarded her its highest honor for outstanding and dedicated service, the Jewel Award. Once Governor George Wallace named her an honorary citizen of the State of Alabama. She spends many Sunday mornings preaching from a pulpit and remains a highly sought after speaker throughout the United States and Europe. She also earned a Doctorate in Social Work, a Juris Doctor, Master of Social Work, and a Bachelor of Arts. She was also awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

Volunteer service of the highest order is the hallmark of the life of Dr. Elizabeth Fran Johnson, she has earned her place as an equal in the Maryland Women's Hall of Fame.

© Copyright Maryland State Archives, 2001