John E. Johnston, Jr. was born September 8, 1933, in Greenville, SC to parents Ruth Jones Johnston and John E. Johnston. He went to the University of South Carolina for undergraduate studies and in 1956, received his J.D. from USC School of Law, where he was first in his class. He was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Chief Justice of the Wig and Robe, SAE, Kappa Sigma Kappa, Omicon Delta Kappa and assistant editor of the law journal.
After graduation, he and his wife, Caroline moved to New Mexico where he served as an officer in the U.S. Air Force, Office of the Judge Advocate General.
He initially practiced law with his father, John E. Johnston, Sr. and then later with both small and large firms, spending the majority of his career with Leatherwood, Walker, Todd & Mann.
Johnny served as president of the SC Bar and the SC Bar Foundation and chaired the SC Supreme Court Commission on Continuing Lawyer Competence. He was a life member of the Fellows of the American Bar Association, emeritus advocate for the American Board of Trial Advocates and was a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers.
In 1972, he was appointed to the State College Board of Trustees and was appointed chair of the Lander Board of Trustees in 1988, where he enhanced higher education in South Carolina. In 1994, the John Johnston Commons at Lander University was dedicated in his honor, where he was awarded an honorary doctorate.
He was listed in the Best Lawyers in America for over a decade. He received the Platinum Compleat Lawyer Award from USC School of Law, the Tommy Thomason Award from the Greenville County Bar Association and the Order of the Palmetto by then Governor Richard W. Riley in 1986.
John E. Johnston, Jr. died on September 2, 2016. He was predeceased by his wife of 50 years, Caroline Cannon Johnston. He is survived by his children, Susan Tankersley, Stacey Reynolds (Kevin), Cara Thompson (Keith) and Brian Smith; and his grandchildren, Ashley Tankersley, Jeanmarie Tankersley, Meghan Tankersley, Jim Tankersley, Macie Thompson, John Thompson, Brett Thompson, Brooke Reynolds and Brandon Reynolds.