Johnson, Elmer W. 1932-2008 (Elmer William Johnson)

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Johnson, Elmer W. 1932-2008 (Elmer William Johnson)


See index for CA sketch: Born May 2, 1932, in Denver, CO; died of bladder cancer, February 19, 2008, near Wickenburg, AZ. Lawyer, executive, and author. Johnson was born in Colorado and died in nearby Arizona, but he spent most of his career in the Midwest, where he attempted to inject elements of social responsibility and ethical integrity into the heart of American business. In the Midwest that meant working with regional and urban planners, transportation and land use experts, and giants of the automotive industry. Johnson was an affiliate (and later partner) of the Chicago law firm of Kirkland and Ellis from 1956 through 1999; there he served as legal counsel to major manufacturers of Amoco petroleum products, Westinghouse electronics, International Harvester commercial trucks, Firestone tires, and others, with a view toward preventing legal problems. In the mid-eighties he worked briefly for the General Motors Corporation, first as legal counsel, then in the influential role of executive vice president. From 1999 to 2002 he served as president and chief executive officer of the Aspen Institute (a research center for business and government), and ended his career as a partner of the Chicago law firm of Jenner and Block. Johnson's commitment to ethics in public policy led him eventually to criticize existing business and government practices and work toward a comprehensive solution that would involve all concerned parties on a large scale. To that end he accepted a commission from the Commercial Club of Chicago to create a grand plan for the future of the Chicago metropolitan area. His solution, published in 2001 as Chicago Metropolis 2020: The Chicago Plan for the Twenty-first Century, addressed issues of suburban sprawl, land use and zoning, transportation and traffic congestion, and even funding sources that included substantial taxes on the excessive use of automobiles. Johnson's prior writings include The U.S. Business Corporation: An Institution in Transition (1988) and Avoiding the Collision of Cities and Cars: Urban Transportation Policy for the Twenty-first Century (1993).



Chicago Tribune, February 21, 2008, sec. 3, p. 9.

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Johnson, Elmer W. 1932-2008 (Elmer William Johnson)

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