Jeh Charles Johnson
Jeh Johnson is a partner in the law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, LLP and the former Secretary of Homeland Security (2013-2017), General Counsel of the Department of Defense (2009-2012), General Counsel of the Department of the Air Force (1998-2001), and an Assistant United States Attorney in the Southern District of New York (1989-1991). Johnson is the grandson of late sociologist Charles S. Johnson and the nephew of two Tuskegee Airmen.
In private life, Johnson is on the board of directors of Lockheed Martin, U.S. Steel, the Council on Foreign Relations, the 9/11 Memorial and Museum in New York City, the Center for a New American Security, and is a trustee of Columbia University. Johnson is frequent commentator on national and homeland security matters on NBC’s Meet The Press, CBS, MSNBC, CNN, FOX, CNBC, NPR, Bloomberg TV and other news networks, and has written op-eds in The Washington Post, USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Hill, and elsewhere.
As Secretary of Homeland Security, Johnson was the head of the third largest cabinet department of the U.S. government, consisting of 230,000 personnel and 22 components, including TSA, Customs and Border Protection, Immigration and Customs Services, U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, and FEMA. Johnson's responsibilities as Secretary included counterterrorism, cybersecurity, aviation security, border security, port security, maritime security, protection of our national leaders, the detection of chemical, biological and nuclear threats to the homeland, and response to natural disasters.
As General Counsel of the Department of Defense, Johnson is credited with being the legal architect for the U.S. military’s counterterrorism efforts in the Obama Administration. In 2010, Johnson co-authored the report that paved the way for the repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell by Congress later that year.
Johnson is a 2022 recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, a 2021 recipient of the American Lawyer’s Lifetime Achievement Award, as “an American statesman [who] has devoted his career to the public interest,” and a 2018 recipient of the Ronald Reagan Peace Through Strength Award, presented at the Reagan Presidential Library, for “contribut[ing] greatly to the defense of our nation,” and “guiding us through turbulent times with courage and wisdom.”
In 2020 the Chief Judge of New York State asked Johnson to conduct a comprehensive review of equal justice in the New York State courts. On October 1, 2020 Johnson issued a public report with his findings and recommendations, all which of which the Chief Judge has committed to adopting.
Johnson has debated at both the Cambridge and Oxford Unions in England, and in November 2019 was conferred honorary life membership in the Cambridge Union. Johnson is a graduate of Morehouse College (1979) and Columbia Law School (1982) and the recipient of 12 honorary degrees.
Guests From Episode 8 of Season 9
Join the conversation on #FindingYourRoots