Defending Constitutional Rights

Frank M. Johnson
Edited by Tony A. Freyer

Perceptive writings and opinions of a powerful figure in twentieth-century civil rights legislation


"It is in this collection of Johnson’s writings, in Freyer’s lucid and adept introduction to each chapter, as well as in his extensive conclusion to the book, that the matter of Johnson’s conservatism is best explained and demonstrated. . . . This slim volume, with Freyer’s brief biographical sketch of Johnson at the beginning, would serve as a good overview and explanation of the judge’s life and legacy for both undergraduate and graduate students."
Alabama Review

"A well-conceived and executed work. Freyer has provided both students of recent American history and legal historians with a collection of Johnson's most important essays—each of which contains an editorial précis that summarizes the most salient points. Moreover, in his introduction, Freyer has given historical context to help the reader better understand Johnson's motivations and the significance of his actions."
Southern Historian

Federal Judge Frank M. Johnson of Alabama decided many of the most important civil rights and liberties cases in twentieth-century American history. During the 1950s and 1960s, his decisions supported Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights fighters in their struggles for justice and equality. Johnson extended the Constitutional defense of individual rights for women, students, prisoners, mental health patients, poor criminal defendants, and voters during his active judicial career in Alabama and the South, which lasted until 1991.

This collection assembles some of Johnson's most thought-provoking and insightful essays, many of which explain and defend a number of his decisions. Also included in this volume is the first published transcript of a 1980 public television interview with Bill Moyers. Meticulously detailed and documented, yet accessible to a wide range of readers, this book explores the constitutional ideals that Johnson forged and defended as he persistently overcame public officials' resistance to constitutional rights and social change.

Southern Legal Studies

Page count: 224 pp.
Trim size: 6 x 9


List price: $46.95

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Frank M. Johnson served as a Federal District Judge in Alabama from 1955-1979 and was a Federal Circuit Court Judge in Alabama from 1979-1991. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995. Tony A. Freyer is the University Research Professor of History and Law at the University of Alabama. He is the author of six books, including Hugo L. Black and the Dilemma of American Liberalism; The Response to Big Business: Antitrust in Great Britain and America, 1880-1990; and Producers Versus Capitalists: Constitutional Conflict in Antebellum America; and coauthor of Democracy and Judicial Independence: Federal Courts in Alabama, 1890-1994.