Like so many other things, the Ed Johnson Project is built on the shoulders of giants.
Lawyer and author Leroy Phillips spent years researching and writing the book Contempt of Court. Rev. Paul McDaniel was instrumental in having Ed Johnson’s name officially cleared by the Hamilton County court system. LaFrederick Thirkill was a tireless champion for so many years, writing a play, starting a scholarship and leading efforts to restore the cemetery where Ed Johnson is buried. Filmmaker Linda Duvoisin worked for years to gather information for her documentary, I Am a Innocent Man: the Ed Johnson Story. Eric Atkins and others collaborated with state lawmakers to pass a state resolution honoring Ed Johnson and his attorneys.
All of these people and countless others remembered and retold the Ed Johnson story. They laid the groundwork for all the work that has happened in the last year.
The project officially began on June 17, 2016 when the Ed Johnson Committee met for the first time at the Camphouse in downtown Chattanooga. We gathered in a small room – some of us meeting for the first time – and introduced ourselves. A principal. A court interpreter. A historian. A writer. A retired headmaster. A lawyer. It would be hard to find a more varied list of professions and backgrounds.
But we all shared one common goal. We believe remembering the Ed Johnson story has the power to help heal and unite our community. We believe when all of us come together to remember and learn from each other, we become a better Chattanooga.