Oregon Native, Former Staffer for Obama Administration Succeeds Michael Alexander As 14th Leader in 70-Year History of Local Civil Rights, Economic Equity and Advocacy Organization
PORTLAND (April 14, 2015) – A new era is beginning for the Urban League of Portland as attorney Nkenge Harmon Johnson, an Oregon native, becomes the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) for the Urban League of Portland. (Her name is pronounced “na-kin-gay”.) She succeeds Michael Alexander, who retires on May 8th after leading the local Urban League affiliate since 2012. Public announcement of Harmon Johnson’s hiring was made today by Urban League Board of Directors Chairperson Lolenzo Poe. Harmon Johnson stepped into the CEO role on April 6th, and will work with Alexander until his retirement for a seamless transition.
“We’re excited to have Nkenge come aboard as our new CEO, and look forward to her leadership as the Urban League of Portland continues to grow as an important advocate in this community,” said Poe. “We are grateful to Michael for his exemplary service to this agency, and for the momentum his leadership has given us. The services and programs delivered by the Urban League are as important today as they’ve ever been. We are in excellent shape as a non-profit agency serving African Americans and other Oregonians whose needs would otherwise go unmet.”
“As one chapter in my professional life ends, an entirely new personal journey begins that my family and I are excited about,” said Alexander about his impending retirement. “I am proud and humbled to have been afforded the privilege to lead this historic organization and serve this community. None of it would be possible without the dedication and commitment of our Urban League staff, volunteers, and the confident support of our board of directors and financial donors. Though I’m moving away from the role of leader of this organization, I will still be an active supporter of the Urban League and its work.”
As she becomes the fourth woman CEO to lead the Urban League of Portland, Harmon Johnson said, “I’m honored and delighted that the board of directors and supporters of the Urban League of Portland have entrusted me with this opportunity. The Urban League movement nationally has been an important advocate for civil rights and economic equity for African Americans and all Americans for more than 100 years. The strength of that movement lies within the network of more than 90 Urban League affiliates around country, including right here in my hometown of Portland. I am pleased to join the dedicated staff, board, and supporters in continuing our mission to shape a community that works for all of us; east, west, north and south.”
Raised in Northeast Portland and Salem, a product of the famed Catlin Gabel School and Harriett Tubman Middle School, Harmon Johnson received a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Florida A & M University, and a Master of Business Administration from Trinity University in Washington, DC. She earned her Juris Doctorate from Howard University School of Law. Harmon Johnson is a member of the Oregon State Bar and the District of Columbia Bar.
Politics has played an important role in Harmon Johnson’s professional career, having served as a strategic staff member in communications, campaigns, constituency outreach and legislative matters for U. S. Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee (D-Texas); U.S. Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada); U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan); and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. From 2010 to 2013, she took on an important responsibility for President Barak Obama’s administration as a Deputy Assistant United States Trade Representative with national and international public affairs responsibilities focused on the Americas and China.
In her home state of Oregon, Harmon Johnson served under former Oregon Governor John A. Kitzhaber, MD, as Communications Director from January to July 2014. She then returned to private life, her small business, and some downtime where she sharpened her power tools and home improvement skills. Her husband, attorney Erious Johnson, is the Director of Civil Rights with Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum’s office. The daughter of Millie Harmon and Maurice Harmon, of Oregon and Southwest Washington, respectively, Harmon Johnson counts among her family three German Shepherds and three rescue cats.