36TH TENNESSEE COMMISSIONER OF AGRICULTURE
UT Knoxville, ’70
Part of the Tennessee Alumnus‘ 100 Distinguished Alumni feature.
Julius Johnson grew up Forbus, Tennessee, in Fentress County, near the Tennessee-Kentucky border in what many know as Alvin “Sergeant” York country. From his involvement with 4-H as a boy and earning a bachelor’s degree in animal science in 1970 to serving the UT Alumni Association and as a member of the UT Board of Trustees, Johnson is a lifelong member of the UT family.
Gov. Bill Haslam appointed Johnson to serve as Tennessee’s 36th commissioner of agriculture in 2011, from which he retired in 2016. As commissioner, Johnson was instrumental in development of the Governor’s Rural Challenge: a landmark, 10-year strategy to grow Tennessee’s agricultural and forest industries. Under his leadership, many of the initiative’s goals were met and foundations laid for future projects. Haslam called Johnson a champion for the agriculture industry—the largest industry in Tennessee.
Prior to being named agriculture commissioner, Johnson was chief administrative officer of the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation, a leading agriculture advocacy organization with the largest membership in the nation. During his 37 years with Farm Bureau, he directed legislative affairs, served as director of research and was a regional field service director.
Johnson was recognized by the UT Gamma Sigma Delta Honor Society of Agriculture with the Distinguished Achievement in Agriculture Award. He is an honorary brother of the Alpha Kappa Chapter of the Alpha Gamma Rho agricultural fraternity, and in 2016, Johnson was recognized with the UT Institute of Agriculture Meritorious Service Award for service to UT and the agriculture industry.