E. Christopher Johnson, Jr., Esq.
J.D. New York Law School
B.S. United States Military Academy at West Point
Year elected to the Board: 2017
City of Residence: Novi, MI
E. Christopher Johnson, Jr., CEO and Co-Founder, Center for Justice, Rights & Dignity and retired GM North America Vice President and General Counsel, attributes his accomplishments to his Christian faith. Additionally, throughout his life, God has surrounded him with many loving and supportive family members, friends and colleagues who have significantly contributed to his continued growth and development. At the top of this list are his late parents and two beautiful wives, Sheryl, whose life was claimed by breast cancer in 2000, and his current wife Rhonda, who now graces his heart. In addition, his daughter Erin, an attorney, and son, Chip, an advertising media buyer, continue to make him a very proud father and grandfather.
Johnson was recently elected to the Board of Trustees of Tuskegee University, where his mother, the late Gladys Campanella Johnson, was Miss Tuskegee and a member of Tuskegee’s class of 1940.
Following his graduation from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1973, Johnson served as an Army officer in Alaska and New Jersey and was awarded the Army Commendation Medal for his leadership and accomplishments in arctic logistics in the northernmost infantry battalion in the United States Army. After his military service, he graduated from New York Law School with Honors in 1981, serving as president of the Student Bar Association.
Johnson started his legal career in 1981 with a prominent New York law firm. In 1985, he left the practice of law to become a headhunter. It was with his last client, General Motors, that he made his last placement—himself—as an attorney in 1988. Accepting the role as GM’s sole attorney handling computer law matters, as well as one of GM’s purchasing lawyers, he rose through the ranks to Practice Area Manager of General Commercial and Government Contracts, Assistant General Counsel and ultimately, GM North America Vice President and General Counsel. In this position, which he held for the last seven years in a twenty-year GM Career, Johnson was responsible for all GM legal matters in the US, Canada and Mexico, supervising a staff of 250 and over 400 outside law firms.
After his 2008 retirement from GM, Johnson joined the faculty at Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School where he served as a law professor and director/founder of the LL.M. program in Corporate Law and Finance until 2013 when he moved to adjunct status to focus his efforts on human trafficking issues. Johnson and his wife Rhonda were exposed to injustice, enormity and brutality of human trafficking or modern day slavery during a 2011 mission trip with NorthRidge Church to Mumbai, India, and felt called by God to join the anti-human trafficking movement. To that end, Johnson and his wife Rhonda recently co-founded the Center for Justice, Rights & Dignity commited to advancing the cause of justice and securing human and civil rights for all who are denied human dignity, especially those victimized by modern day slavery.
His service in this area includes serving as the current chair of the American Bar Association (ABA) Business Law Section Subcommittee on Implementation of ABA Model Policies on Labor Trafficking and Child Labor; Board President of the Michigan Abolitionist Project; a former member of the Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking and the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force and a volunteer with New Friends New Life in Dallas. Johnson led two statewide trafficking conferences at Cooley Law School in 2012. Including one where Ambassador Luis CdeBaca of the US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Office, was the keynote speaker. Johnson’s scholarship accomplishments include over 100 publications, speeches and panel appearances in the areas of human trafficking, supply chain CSR, diversity, professional responsibility, leadership and law school accreditation, including his latest major publication in the Fall 2015 edition of The Business Lawyer entitled “Business Lawyers Are in a Unique Position to Help Their Clients Identify Supply-Chain Risks Involving Labor Trafficking and Child Labor.”
Additional contributions in the human dignity arena has included work with the Bar and community at the national, state and local arenas. Of note, he has served in the ABA House of Delegates, and a former Commissioner of the State Bar of Michigan. He has also chaired both ABA Africa and the ABA Council for Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Educational Pipeline, and co-chaired the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association and the Legacy Justice Campaign for Detroit Legal Aid and Defender Association. Johnson also serves as an advisor to the ABA Business Law Section. His community involvement includes serving in the teaching ministry at One Community Church in Plano, Texas and formerly serving as the General Counsel and an Elder of NorthRidge Church in Plymouth Michigan; chair of the yearly Detroit West Point Leadership and Ethics (LEADS) Workshops from 2011-2014 and advisor of LEADS Workshops in Dallas, Texas in 2015 and 2017; current member of the Board of the West Point Society of North Dallas and past member of the Board of the West Point Society of Michigan, past chair of the Michigan United Negro College Fund Leadership Council, and a former member of the Board of the Great Lakes Division of the American Cancer Society.
He is the recipient of many awards for this service including the 2015 Distinguished Member of the Year of the West Point Society of Michigan, the ABA Spirit of Excellence Award, National Bar Association Clyde Bailey Award for Corporate Leadership, State Bar of Michigan Michael Franck and Champion of Justice Awards, Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association Champion of Justice Award, D. Augustus Straker Bar Association Trailblazer Award, Street Law Corporate Legal Diversity Pipeline Award, African American Automotive Executive of the Year from On Wheels and a member of the National Black Law Students Association (NBLSA) Hall of Fame.