Former Liberian Chief Justice Johnnie Lewis is dead. He was 69. Chief Justice Lewis, had been ailing for some time, and will be remembered according to friends and family members for beginning the reforms which are currently ongoing in the judiciary branch as Liberia seeks to entrench the rule of law after almost three decades of social and political upheaval in the West African country.
He earned his bachelors from the University of Liberia, followed by another bachelor in laws from the Louis Arthur Grimes School of Law in 1969, earning cum laude. He was editor of the Liberian Law Journal while at the law school. He would subsequently graduate Yale Law School where he was also a top student. Leaving the opportunities America had to offer; Lewis returned to his native Liberia and begun practicing law. By 1971 he was one of Liberia’s top lawyers and also began teaching at his former law school. In 1975, Lewis was appointed to the Third Judicial Circuit Court by President William Tolbert.
Lewis, the 18th Chief Justice of Liberia was born April 16, 1946 to Roderick N. Lewis, a lawyer and judge whom he also replaced when president Tolbert appointed him, and Mary Houston-Lewis, a teacher in Greenville, Sinoe County. He served as Chief Justice from 2006 to 2012.
The deceased Chief Justice came from a historic family. His late great grandfather, J. N. Lewis, was a signatory to Liberia’s declaration of independence and Suzannah Lewis, one of the designers of the flag of Liberia, according to reports was also a great grand relative.
Beginning 1984 His Honor Johnny Lewis serve as dean of Liberia’s only law school, The Louis Arthur Grimes for six years, he also held a private practice in Monrovia, where he was a partner in the Lewis & Lewis Law Firm.
For ten years [1993 to 2003] he would work with the United Nations as a legal counsel, in Bosnia and Somalia. Upon her election as Africa’s first female president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf nominated him in 2006, to serve as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Liberia and he was confirmed by the Liberian Senate on March 2, 2006. He hailed from Sinoe County. Lewis resigned from the court in September 2012 citing health issues.