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Dallas County Swears In Its First African-American Female District Attorney

Bill Zeeble
New Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson - facing us - gets a hug from Caroline Wright, who just swore her in.

Faith Johnson was sworn in as Dallas County's first African-American female district attorney Monday. At the ceremony, Johnson said she was excited and grateful to both God and Republicans.

A Republican Dallas prosecutor for nearly eight years, and judge for 17, Johnson was most recently a practicing attorney and Department of Public Safety Commissioner. Monday, the new district attorney spoke of her own faith in front of a packed central jury room of about 500.

“I started working before I got the appointment because by faith I just believed,” Johnson said. “I literally started closing down my office the day I submitted my application. By faith.”

Then Johnson promised equal justice to all. This audience knew that her predecessor, Republican Susan Hawk, resigned for health reasons and the man Hawk defeated, Democrat Craig Watkins, left in a cloud of scandal.

“I am a woman of integrity, people. And I want to maintain that integrity. I don’t want to take a bribe, I don’t want to do anything bad, I want to represent the people of Dallas County with integrity and justice and fairness,” Johnson said.

Former district attorney Susan Hawk’s spotty attendance while she sought help for depression wasn’t lost on well-wishers. Dallas County Republican chair Phillip Huffines welcomed Johnson.

“Last couple of years, it’s been a little up and down, but she’s going to turn the office from being inwardly focused to outwardly focused,” Huffines said. “She is committed to being present in the office of D.A. so the individuals of Dallas know she is representing them.”

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said Johnson would be a good partner with the city.

“I love to be at places where we have breakthroughs,” Rawlings said. “Today we swear in the first female African-American district attorney. Today is a great day.”

Appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott, Johnson will serve through the end of 2018. She’s already said she’ll run again. Winning may be tough in deep blue Dallas  County. Commissioner John Wiley Price, a Democrat who’s backed this Republican before, says it’ll come down to performance.

“Governance is the only thing that matters,” Price said. “I think she’ll do well if she just follows the governance model. And at the end of the day that’s what it’s about.”

How does she intend to govern? Johnson wants to open satellite offices for those who find it hard to reach the Riverfront office. She also wants to start a citizen advisory committee. And Johnson vowed to maintain the integrity unit that’s helped overturn a number of past convictions. 

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.