Undated photograph of John Lee Johnson wearing a t-shirt for Concerned Citizens for Better Neighborhoods, one of many local groups Johnson helped found and lead.

John Lee Johnson, 1941-2006, was a lifelong Champaign-Urbana resident. John Lee Johnson was born to Thomas Lester Johnson and Mamie Carr Johnson on August 7, 1941 in Champaign, Illinois. He was the seventh of twelve children born to this union. John never relocated to any other city but remained a life-long resident of this community. He attended the Champaign-Urbana School Districts and became an advocate for the Black citizenry. He developed a compelling drive to see his community become a better place to work and thrive. He was a member of Greater Holy Temple Church, Urbana, Illinois. His home
was demolished to make room for the present church sanctuary. He was the champion of conversation and possessed a terrific talent for drawing and poetry. Mr. Johnson also hosted a weekly radio program on WBCP Radio, ''A Conversation with John Lee Johnson," and a show on WEFT radio, "Higher Ground." John did not earn any formal degrees; however, he became a self-trained defender, counsel, spokesman and fighter. Through persistence, hard work as well as opposition, he never succumbed to failure nor rejection. His selfless nature always facilitated his work as an advocate for people of color. After a three-month battle with a debilitating illness, he passed away Thursday, March 23, 2006 at Carle Hospital, Urbana, Illinois.

John Lee Johnson's relatives include: John Ore Johnson, Atlanta, Georgia, the son of John and the Dr. Delores Parmer Woodtor; brothers, Louis H. Johnson and Thomas Johnson, Urbana; Larry Johnson, Champaign, IL; William Johnson, Dayton, Ohio, Charles Johnson, George Johnson; sisters, Gertrude Palmer and Ann Marie Johnson, Urbana, IL; Fannie Chalk, Huber Heights, Ohio; Carolyn Johnson, Champaign, IL;, Vivian Johnson and Betty Johnson; two grandchildren and a host of other relatives and special friends.

Life work

• Founded and directed the Eads Street Development Corporation, developing new housing in Champaign, Urbana, and Rantoul
• Worked for Adler Zone Center, State Mental Health Department as an advocate for the poor
• Established the Community Advocacy Depot, made up of University students in Landscape Architecture, Civil Engineering, Urban Planning, Social Work, Sociology, Psychology, Business and Law, who invested their resources in the Black Community
• Established Neighborhood Youth Design Depot to help community youth learn entrepreneurship and get gainful employment
• Worked with Legal Services to get representation for low-income people
•  Worked to establish Special Opportunities program to expand Black enrollment at the University of Illinois
• Established comprehensive post-school program for Black youth
• Developed Bradley Park apartments
• Ran for a seat on the Champaign City Council in 1972
• Was elected first Black District (District 1) Representative in Champaign County
• Offered first Redistricting Map for the Urbana Board Of Education
• Argued for and wrote the first proposal for the Taylor Thomas Home Project
• Created the first Affordable Housing Purchase Rehab and Sale Program mortgaged by Busey Bank
• Generated loans directed to first-time home buyers
• Filed over 14 interventions against lending practices of banks in Champaign/ Urbana
• Developed the Concerned Citizen / Inter-Faith Not-For-Profit Housing Corporation
• Authored and sponsored the first Champaign City Affirmative Action Ordinance
• Member of the Champaign City Council from 1972-1982
• Organized and directed Concerned Citizens Committee
• Helped conceive and implement Project 500 Program at University of Illinois
• Developed five FHA Single Family Housing Units at Eads-at-Lincoln Subdivision
• Founded Northeast Champaign Youth
• Co-Founded People's Poverty Board

External Links

Records and information on John Lee Johnson from eBlackCU: http://bit.ly/Jecq1q