Welcome to the Bishop Joseph Johnson History Project! Thank you for visiting the website and blog.
Growing up, I knew Bishop Johnson simply as granddaddy. He was loved, respected, and cherished by my family. He also left us far too soon, creating a void in our hearts and in the minds of his grandchildren who wanted to know him more. I was only five years old when he passed away.
As a young adult, something happened that caused this void to begin to fill. At the age of 19, I heard “the call” to ministry, and began the long process of ordination in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. I began to understand my grandfather more as I followed in his footsteps, and the footsteps of his father (Rev. Joseph A. Johnson, Sr) and his son (my father, Rev. Dr. Charles DeWitt Johnson). I knew that we shared in common the experience of listening for God, preaching the gospel, and ministering in the CME Church.
But something else happened when I entered the ministry. I was blessed with the gift of story – your stories, and countless of them. You shared stories with me about my grandfather, who he was, how he preached, how he carried himself, and even how he walked! You stopped me in the hallways at conferences, you approached me after sermons, you invited me to your churches, you treated me like a daughter, and you hugged me like you were hugging Bishop Johnson himself.
It became clear to me that you were in awe of Bishop Johnson. Preachers wanted to preach like Bishop Johnson. Scholars wanted to teach like Bishop Johnson. Moreover, many of you credited him with your success today, including bishops, college presidents, professors, pastors, and others. You spoke of him as though he were still alive, and you impressed upon me the legacy that I was inheriting.
The Bishop Joseph Johnson History Project is a response to a dream – your dream and mine – to celebrate the life and legacy of Bishop Johnson. The History Project includes, among other goals, the plan to record your stories and memories and to write a book-length biography of Bishop Johnson.
The biography will include your stories, along with research about his ancestry, his family life, his ministry, his scholarship, and his theology. It will also include an account of the challenges he faced as the first African American student to attend and to graduate from Vanderbilt University.
This blog will chronicle my journey. I invite you to journey with me, share your reflections, and together we will celebrate the life and legacy of Bishop Joseph A. Johnson, Jr.