In 1985, I.S. Leevy Johnson reached the zenith in the South Carolina legal profession when he ascended to the presidency of the South Carolina Bar. Election to this office was the crowning achievement in a distinguished legal career, which has included service as a trial lawyer, legislator, bar leader, lecturer and community servant. He is an active member of the American Bar Association representing the South Carolina Bar as its delegate in the American Bar Association House of Delegates, former President of the American Bar Endowment, as well as serving on numerous ABA committees, and commissions.
A product of Richland County public schools (1960 graduate of C.A. Johnson High School), after high school I.S. enrolled at the University of Minnesota, where he received an Associate of Mortuary Science Degree in 1962. He received a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1965 at Benedict College. He then enrolled at the University of South Carolina Law School and was awarded a Juris Doctor degree in 1968. Embarking on a career of public service, I.S. made history in 1970 by becoming one of the first African-Americans elected to the South Carolina General Assembly since Reconstruction. In 1985, Ebony magazine recognized him as a dynamic leader on the “legal front” in the United States. In describing himself at a public gathering, world-famous attorney Johnnie L. Cochran Jr., said: “I am the I. S. Leevy Johnson of Los Angeles.” In 1999, Gov. Jim Hodges bestowed upon him the state’s highest civilian award, the Order of the Palmetto. In 2002, the South Carolina Department of Transportation authorized the naming of the intersection of Highway 277 and Farrow Road the “I.S. Leevy Johnson Interchange.” For his outstanding contributions to the legal profession, community, and society, Richland County School District One inducted him into its Hall of Fame on November 5, 2005. He has received all of the top honors accorded an attorney in South Carolina. From the South Carolina Bar (Durant Award); the South Carolina Trial Lawyers (Founders Award); the University of South Carolina School of Law (Compleat Lawyer Award); the Richland County Bar Association (John W. Williams Award); and the Columbia Lawyers Association (Matthew J. Perry Medallion).
In 1998, I.S. was inducted as a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers. This organization has been described as the “Hall of Fame” of trial lawyers. And on January 3, 2005, The State newspaper reported that I.S. had been listed among the best lawyers in America in the area of criminal defense.
In 1995, I.S. became owner of Leevy’s Funeral Home, which was founded by his grandparents, I.S. and Mary Leevy. Under his leadership, Leevy’s Funeral Home has earned the reputation of providing superior personnel, superior service and superior equipment to all families entrusted into their care.
I.S. is married to the former Doris Wright. They are the parents of two sons, George C. Johnson and Christopher Leevy Johnson. Doris is a former public school teacher and currently serves as Assistant Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Benedict College. George is a partner with the law firm of Johnson, Toal & Battiste. Chris is the Managing Director of Leevy’s Funeral Home, an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina and an ordained Baptist minister. I.S. says he has now reached the highest position he has ever held – he is the proud grandfather of two grandchildren, Rachel Hurley Johnson and Ryann Leevy Johnson.