AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – WJBF begins a new community initiative. Black Excellence 365 recognizes passionate and inspiring black individuals and organizations in the CSRA year-round. Recipients are honored with the Mary L. Jones Black Affirmation Award.

Tiffany Hobbs sits down with our first honoree.

Midway through his college career, Keith Johnson sat fascinated in an American government class.

“I had never thought about being an attorney,” said Johnson. “I didn’t know any attorneys growing up. It was just something that was not in my imagination, to be honest with you.”

Not long after that class, he began his pursuit in law. 

After 14 years as a criminal defense and personal injury attorney, Johnson says he believes his work is a privilege.

“It is not a right,” said Johnson. “And, so everyday, I want to make sure that I’m serving my clients well and making my family proud.” 

Johnson became the first black male appointed president of the Augusta Bar Association.

“For me, I wanted to set a standard of excellence and accountability so that I would not be the first and the last,” said Johnson.

He says he follows in the legacy of Judge John Ruffin, the first black member of the Augusta Bar.

“I have the benefit of the hard work that he put in before I was born,” said Johnson. “And, so, I believe that I have to carry that torch forward for the next generation.”

It’s the next generation where Johnson dedicates his time outside of the office.

A former college football player, Johnson also serves as a youth football coach.

“It allows me to touch young people,” said Johnson. “Sports, I believe, is great for young kids to learn teamwork, how to deal with adversity and also how to be able to train their bodies and their minds for the upcoming challenges.”

Johnson says he had a speech impediment growing up and there was a time when he didn’t like to speak publicly.

“For me, I give back when I try to instill confidence in that kid that’s in the back of the line with their head down,” said Johnson. “That’s what I thrive on because that allows me to continue my journey and see where this goes for the next generation.”

Johnson says he recently defended a client accused of being a White supremacist gang member.

“I had reservations on taking that case, for obvious reasons,” said Johnson. “I got to know him throughout the process of the case. I was able to resolve the case without him going into the prison system. And he asked me to be the best man in his wedding.”

The experience, he says, reminds him of his ‘why’.

“It shows me and it’s an example of what I see- the evolution in people and how I have to keep an open mind,” said Johnson. “And how I may be the only contact that a person may have when they’re in their time of need. This is a dream come true- to be able to serve people…and to be able to do that in a public way.”

If you would like to nominate someone in the community to receive the Black Excellence Award, visit us at Celebrating Black Excellence 365.