Lawrence Johnson, legendary HBCU sports photographer, passes away

Photographer Lawrence Johnson was a fixture on the sidelines of HBCU football for half a century.

Lawrence Johnson, a prominent photographer and fixture in the HBCU sports scene on the East Coast, has passed away.

Johnson started off on the field, playing two seasons at Howard University under head coach Tillman Sease. The squad had a 61-percent winning percentage, including a 7-2 mark during the 1970 campaign.

After his playing days were over, Johnson served a sports photographer for The Hilltop (1972-74) while pursuing an undergraduate degree. In 1974, the Baltimore native earned his Bachelor of Science in political science.

After graduation (1974), he founded All-Pro Photo, a sports photography organization focused on highlighting Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) with incredible still images.

From 1976 to 1994, Johnson was a contract photographer for TOPPS Baseball and Football Trading Cards. In between that span, he also shot for Baseball and Hockey Digest (1985-86) and Petersen’s Pro Football Annual (1985-86).

Beginning in 1992, Lawrence Johnson was a team photographer for multiple HBCUs in the DMV area, including HU, Morgan State, Bowie State University and Coppin State University, a service he provided for 14 years (1992-06).

During that timeframe, he worked with several organizations, including Sports View Magazine (1993-98) and over 20 HBCU institutions as a contributing photographer (1994-2005).

At the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (1997-2010) and Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (1996-2005), Johnson served as head tournament photographer.

Beginning in 2010 he worked with the University of District of Columbia as team photographer for six years (2010-16). He would continue shooting HBCU sports through the end of the decade.

Beyond his accolades, Johnson served as a mentor to many photographers in the HBCU sports world and beyond. He also contributed several photos for HBCU Gameday articles as well. His legacy will continue to live on through them as well as through the thousands of his photos that have been published and those to come. 

“He was probably one of the best black sports photographers in the country back in the day when nobody would hire us,” remarked Mark Sutton, longtime head photographer at the MEAC. “He was shooting for Topps Trading Cards.”

*Information from a Howard University Athletics story was used for this post.

Lawrence Johnson, legendary HBCU sports photographer, passes away
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