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

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