Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson

Bernette Johnson WHM(June 17, 1943- 

Born in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, Chief Justice Johnson attended Spelman College on an academic scholarship.  A summer internship with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund lead to a decision to go to law school, and she received her Juris Doctorate degree in 1969 from Louisiana State University.

Chief Justice Johnson began her legal career with the New Orleans Legal Assistance Corporation, providing legal services in economically challenged neighborhoods. In 1984 she became a Deputy City Attorney for the City of New Orleans, and began her judicial career as the first woman elected to serve on the Civil District Court of New Orleans.  She was re-elected without opposition in 1990 and elected Chief Judge by her colleagues in 1994.

Chief Justice Johnson was elected to serve on the Louisiana Supreme Court in 1994, and was re-elected, without opposition, in 2000 and 2010. After the retirement of Chief Justice Catherine D. Kimball—the Court’s first female Chief Justice—Chief Justice Johnson succeeded her as the senior justice on the Court.  When she was sworn in on February 1, 2013, she became the Court’s 25th Chief Justice, its second female Chief Justice, and its first African American Chief Justice.

Her numerous awards include the 2013 Joan Dempsey Klein Award by the National Association of Women Judges, joining past recipients such as Supreme Court Justices, Sandra Day O’Connor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor.

Chief Justice Johnson is an active member of the Omicron Nu Zeta Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority.  #FINERWOMEN #WHM #HERSTORY

100 Years of Service

Congratulations to the men of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. who celebrate 100 years of brotherhood, scholarship and service today. In honor of this centennial achievement, I’d like to highlight a centenarian who spent a lifetime in service to others: Dr. Clarence Quinton Pair.

The eldest child of Rev. James David Pair and Lula Thornton Pair, Dr. Pair was born in Raleigh, North Carolina, and moved with his family to Washington, DC when he was a child. He attended Howard University where he joined Phi Beta Sigma’s Alpha Chapter in 1918. Soon after, Founder A. Langston Taylor appointed him to the first committee to help establish a sister-organization for the fraternity. The initial effort failed in 1919, and it would take a second committee, spearheaded Bro. Charles Robert Samuel Taylor that would prove successful in 1920.

When the call for young men to enlist in the army for World War I was made, many Howard students suspended their studies and enlisted. Dr. Pair was one of them, enlisting one month shy of his 18th birthday; however, the war would end before his unit could be shipped to Europe. He returned to complete his studies at Howard and enter the medical school. Dr. Pair served as president of his medical school senior class and graduated in 1926. He spent a year interning at the Freedman’s Hospital and thereafter began practicing medicine in Mount Vernon, New York. Dr. Pair practiced medicine for 50 years, and during that time he would become the first black doctor at the Mount Vernon Hospital and the Westchester Cross County Hospital.

Dr. Pair cared deeply about the issues that affected the black community and was always eager to support organizations and candidates who were community-minded. He was accessible to the fraternity, and even at the ripe age of 100, he could still be found writing to his fraternity brothers to provide insight into the development and growth of the organization.

Dr. Pair spent his life in service to his patients, his family, his community and his fraternity. His legacy and service to Phi Beta Sigma will not soon be forgotten.


Mrs. Bethune and Zeta Phi Beta Sorority

One of the most intriguing discoveries that I made while writing Finer Women was that Mary McLeod Bethune was at one time affiliated with Zeta Phi Beta. As a graduate of Bethune-Cookman College—the institution she founded in 1904 in Daytona Beach, Florida—and as one who formerly gave tours at the Bethune Council House in Washington DC where I interned in 1998, I was well-versed in Bethune-facts.  One of those unquestionable facts was that Mary McLeod Bethune was an honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, inducted in 1923 at its 5th national convention.
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