Charleston lawyer and activist Harriet McBryde Johnson, 1957 – 2008


Harriet McBryde Johnson, a well-known Charleston disability and civil rights attorney, died Wednesday. She was a longtime supporter of the SC Progressive Network, and was recognized for her activism with the Network’s 2004 Thunder and Lightning Award.

‘She worked yesterday. It’s a shock to everybody,’ said friend and attorney Susan Dunn.

She was born July 8, 1957, and had been a Charleston resident since age 10. In 2005 she wrote the book Too Late to Die Young: Nearly True Tales from a Life.

She told The Post and Courier that she became an attorney because her disability-rights work had taught her something about the impact of law on how people live. She specialized in helping people who couldn’t work get Social Security benefits.

She was chairwoman of the Charleston County Democratic Party executive committee (1988-2001); city party chair (1995-2000); secretary of city party (1989-95); national convention delegate (1996); president, Charleston County Democratic Women (1989-91); County Council candidate (1994); and a certified poll manager.

Funeral arrangements are pending at Fielding Home For Funerals.

Johnson, who was born with a neuromuscular disease, drew national attention for her opposition to ‘the charity mentality’ and ‘pity-based tactics’ of the annual Jerry Lewis muscular dystrophy telethon.

She was a talented writer. Here is a piece she wrote for POINT.

One thought on “Charleston lawyer and activist Harriet McBryde Johnson, 1957 – 2008

  1. I am sorry to have learned of her passing. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends who are grieving of their loss. I never knew Ms. Johnson personally, but from what I have been told of her, she was a true champion in the fight for the rights of those who have been wronged that didn’t have the resources to get justice. She especially fought for the rights of the disabled. No one should ever discriminate against those who are on disability, whether the disability can be seen or unseen. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 is an important piece of legislation that continually needs to be enforced, not watered down by the Republicans. I hope that the work Ms. Johnson did for the disabled and for the less fortunate will continue in her absence by the law firm that she represents. Please accept my condolences during this time of mourning.

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