2015 Citizen Lawyers: Samuel Johnson
By Molly Martinson
ROCKY MOUNT – The North Carolina Bar Association has recognized Rocky Mount attorney Samuel W. Johnson with its Citizen Lawyer Award. The award honors attorneys who dedicate their time and talents to serving their communities and inspire others to do the same.
Some say small towns in America are dying. The buildings that once lined bustling Main Streets are beginning to crumble. But to Johnson, small-town history is worth preserving. He strives to promote economic vitality in his hometown of Rocky Mount through historic development and preservation.
Johnson knows a thing or two about life in a small town. He grew up in Hamilton, North Carolina, population 500.
When Johnson left Hamilton to attend Duke University, he was convinced he would fail out. Instead, Johnson achieved great success, and went on to attend law school at Duke. Johnson is now a partner at Poyner Spruill, practicing in its Rocky Mount and Raleigh offices.
Since 1986, Johnson has served as a board member and officer of Downtown Renaissance, a nonprofit organization focused on revitalizing and redirecting downtown Rocky Mount. He has also served as president and board member of Preservation NC, the state’s only private nonprofit statewide historic preservation organization. Preservation NC works to protect and promote buildings, landscapes, and historical sites important to our state heritage.
But Johnson’s civic mission is not confined by the walls of the historic buildings he helps preserve. He believes that “historic preservation positively impacts community and economic development.”
To that end, Johnson uses his skills as a corporate and commercial real estate lawyer to promote local entrepreneurism. He represents businesses large and small, helping his clients achieve their goals and guiding them through the legal process.
Johnson also fosters local entrepreneurism through his work with NorthEast Entrepreneurial Roundtable (NEER). NEER supports and recognizes entrepreneurs who own businesses in Edgecombe, Halifax, Nash and Wilson counties. Johnson has been a member of the NEER advisory board since its inception.
Each year, NEER selects an “Entrepreneur of the Year.” Past winners include a number of Rocky Mount-based entrepreneurs whose industries range from agriculture to recycling to manufacturing.
Johnson’s contributions to his community can only be characterized as “from the ground up.” From restoring historic buildings, to improving the lives of those who live and work in them, Johnson personifies the Citizen Lawyer.
The Citizen Lawyer Committee of the NCBA Young Lawyers Division, in conjunction with the NCBA Citizen Lawyer Committee, provides expanded coverage of the 2015 Citizen Lawyer Awards in recognition of their volunteer service and leadership in their communities and beyond.
Molly Martinson is a law clerk to the Honorable Robert N. Hunter Jr. at the North Carolina Court of Appeals.