Mrs. Grace L. Johnson was born on August 10, 1917 in Mansfield, Louisiana to DeWitt and Elizabeth Johnson. She had an identical twin sister, Della Frances Hill (nee Johnson), and a brother, Dr. Jarone Johnson.
In 1937, Mrs. Johnson graduated from Southern University. She continued her education at Denver University, where she received a Master’s Degree in Mathematics Education. She also attended the University of Chicago and the University of Georgia.
In 1938, Mrs. Johnson married Bishop Joseph A. Johnson, Jr., who would later become the first African American to graduate from Vanderbilt University and a bishop in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. She was Bishop Johnson’s faithful companion for 41 years. They had three children: Dr. Joseph A. Johnson III, Dr. Charles DeWitt Johnson, and Patricia Johnson-Powell.
Mrs. Johnson was a gifted educator whose professional career crossed disciplines and educational levels. She served as Assistant Professor of Education and Psychology and Director of Student Teaching at Lane College in Jackson, Tennessee. She was a Critic Teacher at Grambling University and a Jeans Supervisor for the Red River Parish Schools. She also taught Elementary and High School Mathematics in the Atlanta and Nashville School Systems.
Mrs. Johnson was an advocate for the poor, for racial justice, and for cancer research. She was highly sought as a public speaker and resource person in the fields of religion and education. She travelled extensively in Europe and the Holy Land, and attended World Conferences in Norway, Canada, Sweden, Holland, England, Russia, and Ghana.
She was a member of Williams Memorial CME Temple in Shreveport, Louisiana. She served on the Task Force on Poverty, the Interfaith Committee, Urban League Guild, Board of Directors of Central YWCA, the Friends of Security National Bank, the World Federation of Methodist Women, the National Council of Negro Women, and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. She also served as a volunteer with the America Cancer Society and was a bible study group leader.
Aside from her many professional and civic accomplishments, Mrs. Johnson was known for her deep and abiding friendships with people from all walks for life. Her warmth and kindness, her invincible strength in the face of adversity, and her abiding faith in the Lord were an inspiration to all who knew her.
On June 4, 1988, Mrs. Johnson died after a lengthy battle with breast cancer. The funeral bulletin reprinted her poetic statement published in a 1976 issue of The Christian Index:
“I Am One”
“This year, one out of fifteen women in the United States will develop breast cancer.
I am only one. But I am one! I am one out of fifteen that developed it! I am one out of 900,000 women treated for breast cancer. I am one of more than a million women still living productive lives after breast surgery…
Some bewildered women ask, “Why me?” I only ask, “Why not me?” I am one of God’s children! God has not promised that my skies would always be blue. But He has promised that He would be with me always.
Let me not pray to be sheltered from dangers, but to be fearless in facing them; Let me not beg for the stilling of my pain, but for the heart to conquer it.
– Grace L. Johnson, published in The Christian Index, 1976
The Bishop Joseph Johnson History Project, with gratitude, celebrates the life and legacy of Mrs. Grace L. Johnson.
[Rev. Cynthia Johnson-Oliver is writing a biography of Bishop Johnson that will include a chapter about Mrs. Grace Johnson. If you knew Bishop or Mrs. Johnson, and would like to share your memories or photos, contact Rev. Johnson-Oliver by clicking here.]