An amazing example of selfless public service left this world last night.
Our Quod Librum family is heartbroken for all who knew and loved Representative Ralph C. Johnson. We will continue to hold his family, deep community of friends who were as dear to him as family, colleagues in the General Assembly, and team of dedicated volunteers in the Light. We too are mourning this great loss, and wanted to pay official tribute to his career of public service.
From the moment he asked us to join his staff, we knew that Representative Johnson was a sincere, living example of his principles.
“What’s there to say?” He bemused when we asked him to walk us through his life story. “My life didn’t start until I found North Carolina.”
He started running for office in 1995. He wanted to talk about disparity in education, hunger, and policing; and expanding economic opportunities for the most underserved members of our community.
A lot of people take a loss with bitterness. They give up on seeking public office and serving the public.
Ralph Johnson never was a quitter.
He got in the fight for food justice in Greensboro, helping to pave the way for the nationally acclaimed Renaissance Co-Op that is a torchbearer in overcoming our city’s hunger crisis.
He spoke out about continued cuts to public education and the need to reform hiring practices so people who have paid their debt to society can make a living wage and rebuild their life.
He served his community in every way he could until he was finally called to public office again. And he won.
It is by no means a stretch to say the day he was finally sworn into office was one of his proudest moments. He told us with no hesitation that doing the people’s business was one of the greatest treasures of his life.
It wasn’t a thing he took lightly. Only by happenstance did we realize that, in his very first session, he sponsored 354 bills — because he had no idea. It might have been more than anyone else in the chamber, but we only confirmed that it was the most among the Democrats.
Why didn’t he know? He was too busy working on ways to assist victims of domestic violence or — at long last — expand Medicaid in North Carolina. He never stopped to think about the work he’d done. He would say, “There is so much TO do!”
He fought to raise the minimum wage so we could lift people out of poverty. He fought to address food deserts.
He fought for government transparency and accountability, including legislation to keep track of homeless veterans being assisted by public agencies and to suit police officers with body cameras.
Ralph Johnson fought for women, children, schools and their teachers, anyone struggling to survive in poverty, and every person going to bed hungry at night.
He fought for every North Carolinian who played by the rules, worked hard, and just needed a helping hand to make it.
He was a man of his word. There wasn’t a single moment that he forgot why he was in Raleigh.
Ralph Johnson wasn’t afraid to fight for what he knew was right, just, and good.
He fought every moment of his life to leave a better world than the one he grew up in and he was a role model for all of us to do the same.
This is in no way a complete account of the life of a very hardworking, humble, kind man. We here at Quod Librum simply wanted to make sure that everyone had a complete picture of the kind of State Representative they had in Ralph Johnson and the legacy he hoped his time as a lawmaker could leave for others.
The people of North Carolina would be blessed to have many more elected officials with his dedication and authenticity at every level.
Were he able, he would have wished new Representative-Elect Amos Quick all the best in his road ahead representing the people of the 58th district.