"TAMING THE STORM: The Life and Times of Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., and the South's Fight Over Civil Rights" by Jack Bass

"TAMING THE STORM: The Life and Times of Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr., and the South's Fight Over Civil Rights"

Email this review


Bass (Journalism/Univ. of Mississippi; Unlikely Heroes, 1981, etc.), using extensive quotes from taped interviews with his subject and others, tells the story of an outstanding and heroic federal judge: Frank M. Johnson of Alabama, who, despite the constant threat of violence in the explosive 1960's South, contributed to the achievement of racial justice in numerous landmark civil-rights cases. Johnson was a typically ornery product of the ""free state of Winston,"" as northern Alabama's Winston County was known (out of Unionist and antislavery sentiment, Winston attempted to secede from Alabama in 1862). Aside from his fiercely independent personality, there was little in Johnson's upbringing to suggest that he would become a champion of civil rights: He received a conventional legal education at the Univ. of Alabama--where he befriended his future adversary George Wallace and graduated first in his class--and, after WW II combat service in Europe (where he was wounded), he returned to an ordinary legal practice in Alabama. But Johnson apparently had an innate sense of justice that, after his appointment to the federal bench in 1955, led to frequent confrontations with Alabama's reactionary political culture. Bass describes how Johnson's attempts to enforce Brown v. Board of Education resulted in dramatic and vituperative showdowns with Wallace and finally ended segregation in the Alabama schools, and how Johnson's decisions allowed the historic Selma march to go forward, and punished violence directed against African-Americans. Together with judges of the Fifth Circuit, who affirmed Johnson's progressive decisions, Johnson had a pervasive effect on the eradication of racial discrimination in the South. A vivid, first-rate biography of a judicial hero.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1993
Page count: 495pp
Publisher: Doubleday