“My life has unfolded as a result of a combination of serendipity, calculated maneuvering, guidance, and direction.” — Julius Johnson'89, P'22
“One of the most defining moments in my life took place when I was preparing to go on the Kenya Program,” says Julius Johnson ’89 P’22, alumnus of the 1987-1988 Kenya Program cohort. Johnson says he is one of the many who, after the immersive experience, in some ways never left. “The experience of going to Kenya allowed me to explore the multilayered quality of my identity that I had never been able to before,” Johnson says.
And there are many layers to Julius Johnson. He is currently CEO of Johnson Development LLC, a U.S. Defense contracting company he co-founded with his wife, Ameenah Saleem, an engineer and the company’s president and managing director. The Johnsons also founded of The Newberry Foundation, established to honor seven generations of Johnson’s Newberry family legacy in middle Georgia, which spans more than two centuries from slavery to the 21st century. Since 2010, the Foundation has worked to preserve the Black history in Hawkinsville, Georgia, where the Johnsons are based, build community, and provide educational opportunities.
Johnson’s journey back to Kenya, where he is currently serving as a head of U.S. government, military, and diplomatic corps relations at the U.S. Embassy-Nairobi, has taken him to four continents with many twists and turns.
After graduating from St. Lawrence where he served as Black Student Union president and played varsity basketball, Johnson taught at The George School before he completed his master’s degree in African Studies at Yale. Utsunomiya-shi, Japan, was his next pin on the map, where he worked in the Japanese Exchange Teacher’s (JET) program. He then gained experience in Washington, D.C., working at The Library of Congress and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).
It was back to Africa when Johnson traveled to Malawi and served as regional director for the nonprofit Africare. Following Malawi, he lived in Saudi Arabia for several years where he served as a U.S. Defense Department language instructor before accepting the position of regional coordinator for the Middle East and East Africa within the Foreign Agriculture Service (FAS) for the Global McGovern Dole School-feeding initiative.
During the Obama Administration, Johnson was assigned to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) in Afghanistan.
“My life has unfolded as a result of a combination of serendipity, calculated maneuvering, guidance, and direction,” says Johnson. “I followed my interests and my passion for curiosity.
“In all the places I have been, I’ve realized that I brought myself there, that I really learned about me,” Johnson says, “when I became aware of that, I then brought the passport and visa into my own heart and my own story.”
Although Johnson’s work covers many thousands of miles and includes navigating complex political and cultural logistics, including those he first encountered on his Kenya Program, he also focuses on simple moments. “I like to celebrate small moments with a good biography, a good coffee bean, and a fine cigar. If I have that once in a while, I’m good,” Johnson says.