Cheryl Johnson
Senior Administration and Unit Directors

Cheryl Johnson

Director, Government Relations

Cheryl Lynn Johnson is the director of the Smithsonian’s Office of Government Relations. She is responsible for promoting and strengthening the Smithsonian’s relationship with Congress, the Executive Branch and federal, state and local governments.

Previously, Johnson served as chief of staff to Lonnie Bunch, the director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. At the museum, she provided strategic counsel to the museum’s leadership and staff on a broad range of initiatives, including those related to collections and public programs, and to its partnerships with cultural organizations, colleges and universities and other national and global organizations.

For nearly 10 years, Johnson worked as senior government relations associate in the Office of Government Relations. She worked with Smithsonian leadership and the Board of Regents to build and maintain strong relationships with Congress, specifically with the Congressional committees with jurisdiction over programs and appropriations. She also developed strategic legislative objectives, policies and funding opportunities for the Smithsonian. Johnson worked with the senior leadership of the National Museum of African American History and Culture to secure the federal funding for its construction costs.

Before joining the Smithsonian, Johnson was the chief education and investigative counsel for the Committee on Education and the Workforce in the U.S. House of Representatives. She served as the principal policy advisor and investigator for the committee, addressing concerns in elementary and secondary education, juvenile justice, child nutrition, labor issues and older Americans’ employment and nutrition programs.

From 1989 to 1995, Johnson was the staff director and counsel for the Committee on House Administration’s Subcommittee on Libraries and Memorials. As staff director, she exercised oversight and legislative responsibility over the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian.

Born in New Orleans, Johnson holds a degree in mass communications and journalism from the University of Iowa and a law degree from Howard University School of Law.

She is married to Clarence Ellison and has one son, Clarence Bradford Ellison. They reside in Chevy Chase, Md.

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