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George Johnson Jr., MD, Distinguished Visiting Professor

George Jonson Jr., MD
George Jonson Jr., MD

During a career of nearly four decades, George Johnson, Jr. held several key posts in the medical school and at the UNC Hospitals, including chief of vascular surgery, vice chairman of the department of surgery, associate chief of staff, director of Ambulatory Care Surgery Center and coordinator of general surgery.

He was born April 6, 1926, in Wilmington, the son of George W. Johnson and Evelyn Hill Johnson. His father, a Wallace native, was a pioneer specialist in obstetrics and gynecology in eastern North Carolina.

The younger Johnson served with the U.S. Army in the South Pacific during World War II, rising to the rank of first lieutenant and receiving the Army Commendation Medal. He then followed his father to Chapel Hill, graduating with a B.S. degree and receiving a pre-medical certificate from what was then UNC’s two-year medical school program. He received his M.D. degree from Cornell University in 1952, completed his surgery training at New York Hospital and served briefly as an instructor in surgery at the Cornell medical school.

He joined the Chapel Hill faculty in 1959, rising to full professor in 1969. In 1973, he was named Roscoe B.G. Cowper Distinguished Professor. During his tenure, he founded the medical school’s division of vascular surgery.

The operating rooms in the UNC Hospitals’ Ambulatory Care Center were named for him. In 1995, the university established the George Johnson Jr. Distinguished Professorship in Vascular Surgery in his honor.

Johnson served on the N.C. Board of Medical Examiners. A longtime adviser to the N.C. Office of Emergency Medical Services, he was a leader in establishing ambulance standards. The state’s George Johnson Award for Emergency Medical Services was named for him.

Among his many professional positions, Johnson was one of the few physicians to be elected twice to the board of governors of the American College of Surgeons. Gov. Mike Easley named him to the Order of the Long Leaf Pine in 2006 for his service to the state.


Johnson owned a home at Figure Eight Island as well as a farm in eastern North Carolina. In his spare time, he researched the history of Civil War blockade runners. In addition to more than 200 scientific articles, book chapters and abstracts, he wrote Rose O’Neale Greenhow and the Blockade Runners, published in 1995.