WVU Law receives $1.3 million gift for scholarships

The College of Law has received a $1.3 million gift from a trust established by former Secretary of Defense Louis Arthur Johnson. The gift creates the Louis A. Johnson Scholarship Fund at the law school. 

Col. Johnson, who passed away in 1966, was a leading figure in the presidential administrations of Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman. Born in 1891 in Roanoke, Va., Johnson received his law degree from the University of Virginia. He began his legal career in Clarksburg, forming a partnership with Phillip Steptoe and John Rixey. After Rixey’s departure in 1916, the firm became known as Steptoe and Johnson.

Johnson was a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates and served in World War I, seeing action in France. Following the war, he became involved in veteran affairs and helped found the American Legion. He rose to the rank of Colonel in the Army Reserve in the 1920s.

Serving as the assistant secretary of war for Franklin Roosevelt from 1937-40, Johnson advocated rearmament and the expansion of military aviation in the years leading up to World War II. His tenure as Harry Truman’s secretary of defense from 1949-50 was marked by the so-called Revolt of the Admirals, the founding of NATO, and the beginning of the Korean War.

“After decades of service to his country, Colonel Johnson had the foresight to establish a trust in 1960 that would benefit legal education,” said attorney Robert M. Steptoe, Jr. “His legacy will now live on in the future graduates of the WVU College of Law and the important work they will do throughout their careers.”

“We are deeply grateful for this gift from the Johnson Trust and privileged to use it in a way that memorializes such a distinguished lawyer and leader,” said Joyce McConnell, dean of the College of Law.

After leaving the Roosevelt administration, Col. Johnson opened the Washington, D.C. office of Steptoe & Johnson in 1945. In 1980, the Washington and West Virginia offices separated amicably, creating Clarksburg-based Steptoe & Johnson and Washington, D.C. Steptoe & Johnson, Chartered, which both continue to operate today.

The Johnson gift to the WVU College of Law is part of A State of Minds: The Campaign for West Virginia’s University, a $750 million fundraising effort the WVU Foundation is conducting on behalf of the University.

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