Established in 1977, the Richard B. Johnson Award is the Association’s highest honor. An award for lifetime achievement, it recognizes the recipient’s outstanding and selfless contributions to advancing the practice of real estate law. The award was created to honor Richard B. Johnson who became a highly-regarded, even revered figure in the legal community following distinguished service in World War II. Award recipients have included members of the judiciary, former officers of the Association, members of the Land Court’s legal staff and distinguished conveyancers.

Richard B. ("Dick") Johnson, Esq.
1914 -1977

Richard B. Johnson – the Forgotten Hero of the Causeway Charge
By Paul Woodadge ©2008

Richard Brigham ("Dick") Johnson was admitted to the Massachusetts Bar in 1939 after graduating from Harvard Law School. He joined the Boston firm of Ropes & Gray that year, but his legal career was almost immediately interrupted by military service in World War II. Johnson commanded a platoon of infantrymen who crossed the English Channel by glider and landed in Normandy on D-Day. Shot through the ankles while leading his men across a heavily defended causeway, he earned a Bronze Star for his bravery.

On his return from the war, he began to specialize in real estate law at Ropes & Gray. He became an active member of REBA’s predecessor, the Massachusetts Conveyancers Association and was elected a member of The Abstract Club. For many years, he supervised the work of former Land Court Judge Marilyn M. Sullivan, who joined Ropes & Gray in 1951 in order to assist him with real estate law work.

Ropes & Gray made him a partner in 1960. Johnson was also active in town affairs in his hometown of Swampscott, Massachusetts and served as moderator for several years in the 1960s. He was a co-author of Town Meeting Time which became the bible for town meeting moderators. In 1967, together with Warren Carley, another partner at Ropes & Gray, he drafted the first statute in Massachusetts authorizing industrial development bonds which was designed to save the Fore River Shipyard in Quincy.

Johnson served as President of the Massachusetts Conveyancers Association, now known as REBA in 1971 and 1972 and his expertise in all aspects of real estate law was generally highly regarded throughout the legal community. He was also known as a man of great caring, kindness and wit and also a person who was not afraid to directly confront and remedy a problem with quick-thinking action. While leaving for lunch one day, Johnson came across two bank robbers attempting to escape from the lobby of the building which housed the State Street Bank. He was able to trap one robber in the revolving doors of the building and tackled the second would-be thief and held him until the police arrived.

In 1971 Johnson was diagnosed with cancer. He was in and out of the hospital and his law office over the next several years, continuing his endeavors with great courage. He died in 1977.

Recipients of the Richard B. Johnson Award

2019: E. Christopher Kehoe  
2018: Diane C. Tillotson 1994: Hon. John E. Fenton, Jr.
2017: Hon. Leon J. Lombardi 1993: William V. Hovey
2016: Edward M. Bloom 1991: Austin W. Keane
2015: Hon. Karyn F. Scheier 1990: Hon. Marilyn M. Sullivan
2012: Joel M. Reck 1989: Herbert W. Vaughan
2008: Philip S. Lapatin  1988: Arnold S. Dane
2007: Joel A. Stein 1987: Arthur L. Eno, Jr.
2005: Hon. Robert V. Cauchon* 1986: Norman T, Byrnes
2002: Jon S. Davis     1985: Hon. William I. Randall
2001: F. Sydney Smithers, IV  1984: Orrin P. Rosenberg
2000: Robert J. Hoffman 1983: Dorcas Park
1999: Hon. Rudolph Kass (ret.) 1982: Dunbar Holmes
1998: Charles W. Trombly, Jr.  1981: Frederick S. Lane
1997: Denis Maguire 1980: Roger B. Tyler
1996: Haskell Shapiro  1979: Frederick B. Dailey*
1995: Henry H. Thayer    1978: Albert B. Wolfe
*Awarded posthumously