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The Legacy of Joseph E. Johnson, Jr.

In fall 2021 the family of Joseph E. Johnson, Jr., along with former students of Dr. Johnson, friends, and members of the Red Clay community, encouraged the Red Clay school board to approve the renaming of Highlands Elementary School in honor of the civil rights champion, who passed away in 2020.

“Red Clay schools would not be what they are today without Dr. Johnson’s legacy of educational equity for all,” said Dorrell Green, superintendent of Red Clay.

A lifelong educator and Wilmington native, Johnson made Delaware history in 1968 as the first African-American principal of a non-segregated educational institution, P.S. Dupont High School, and later as the first superintendent of the Red Clay Consolidated School District. He was inducted into the Red Clay Hall of Fame in 2016 for his contributions to the Red Clay community, particularly his work in the 1980s to desegregate schools and provide education equity for all students.

Johnson graduated from Howard High School in 1952 and participated in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom before serving on active duty for two years as an officer in the United States Army Surface to Air Missile program. With a Bachelor's of Science in Biology, a Master's Degree in School Administration and a Doctorate of Education Degree, he served as a science teacher, school leader and personnel director before spending nine years as a superintendent.