Grantland Johnson

Grantland L. Johnson (September 29, 1948 – August 19, 2014) was a Sacramento-area politician and former Secretary of California's Health and Human Services Agency, the first African-American to hold the position.[1][2] He was born in the Del Paso Heights neighborhood in northern section of Sacramento, California. He was raised by his grandmother, Irene Wallace and mother Mae Willie Johnson and grew up with his two sisters, Rosemary and Cathy. Grantland attended Grant High School where he participated in extra curricular activities such as football, the violin, the debate team and baseball.

Political careerEdit

Grantland Johnson was one of a limited number of United States politicians who had served in offices on the city, county, state, and federal levels. Johnson began his career in politics in 1983, when he was elected to the Sacramento City Council. As a councilmember, he helped to establish Sacramento's Economic Development Department and Neighborhood Services Department.[3]

When Ted Sheedy chose not to seek reelection to the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors in 1986, Johnson ran for the District 1 seat, defeating Roger Dickinson in a runoff election.[4] Johnson was reelected in 1990.[5]

Shortly after Bill Clinton was elected President of the United States in 1992, Johnson began to pursue a position in the President's administration.[6] In 1993, President Clinton announced that Johnson had been appointed to the position of Regional Director of the United States Department of Health and Human Services by Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna Shalala.[7]

After serving more than six years in the Clinton Administration, Johnson was selected by California Governor Gray Davis in 1999 to become the state's Secretary of Health and Human Services, the largest state agency in the United States.[8]

Johnson had announced plans for a political comeback in 2010 as he was running for his old seat on the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors that was being vacated after 4 terms by Roger Dickinson who was running for the State Assembly.[citation needed]


Grantland Johnson graduated from Grant Union High School (Sacramento, California) in 1966. Johnson attended American River College, where he received an Associate of Arts degree. He then went on to attend California State University, Sacramento, where he earned a bachelor's degree in Government in 1974. He has been awarded honorary doctorate degrees from Sacramento State and Golden Gate University.[9][10]

He was a member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity, where he was initiated into the Gamma Alpha chapter in 1969.[11]

Awards and recognitionEdit

A soccer field in Hagginwood Park–a park in the Del Paso Heights neighborhood of Sacramento, California–was named for Johnson in 2011.[12]


  1. ^ "Accomplishments - Celebrating Diversity: African American". Governor Gray Davis Digital Library. Retrieved 2008-07-21.
  2. ^ "Sacramento political leader Grantland Johnson dies | Local News - KCRA Home". Retrieved 2014-08-22.
  3. ^ "Family Re-Union 2: Reinventing Family Policy - Speaker Biographies". Family Reunion, Child and Family Policy Center. Vanderbilt Institute for Public Policy Studies. 2002. Archived from the original on August 14, 2007. Retrieved 2008-07-21.
  4. ^ "Johnson Beats Dickinson in Supervisor Race". Sacramento Bee. The McClatchy Company. November 5, 1986. p. B1. Archived from the original (fee required) on July 12, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
  5. ^ "Incumbents Roll in Two Supervisors' Races: Grantland Johnson gets 61.5% of Vote Over Two Contenders". Sacramento Bee. The McClatchy Company. June 6, 1990. p. B3. Archived from the original (fee required) on July 12, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
  6. ^ "Grantland Johnson Seeks U.S. Post: Supervisor Pursuing 2 Regional Director Offices on Clinton Team". Sacramento Bee. The McClatchy Company. February 17, 1993. p. B3. Archived from the original (fee required) on July 12, 2008. Retrieved 2008-07-21.
  7. ^ William J. Clinton: 1993 (PDF). Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States. Book II. Washington: United States Government Printing Office. 1994. p. 2215. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-05-10. Retrieved 2008-07-19.
  8. ^ Johnson, Grantland (September–October 2000). "Memo, dated 2006" (PDF). Sierra Sacramento Valley Medicine. Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society. 51 (5). Retrieved 2008-07-21.[permanent dead link]
  9. ^ "Grantland Johnson: Academy Induction Year: 2002". Academy of Distinction and Honor. California State University, Sacramento College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies. Retrieved 2008-07-21.
  10. ^ "Honorary Degrees - Grantland Johnson". Honorary Degrees Conferred by the California State University. The California State University. Retrieved 2014-08-19.
  11. ^ "Member Search - Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc". Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Incorporated. Archived from the original on 2014-08-20. Retrieved 2014-08-19.
  12. ^ "Community honors Grantland Johnson". Sacramento Press. The Sacramento Press, LLC. March 20, 2011. Retrieved 2014-08-19.
Political offices
Preceded by
Sandra R. Smoley
Secretary, California Health and Human Services Agency
1999 - 2003
Succeeded by
S. Kimberly Belshè
Preceded by
Director, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Region IX
1993 - 1999
Succeeded by
Catherine Dodd
Preceded by
Ted Sheedy
Supervisor, Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, District 1
1986 - 1993
Succeeded by
Roger Dickinson
Preceded by
Blaine Fisher
Councilmember, Sacramento City Council, District 2
1983 - 1986
Succeeded by
Charles Bradley