Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Bishop Johnie Johnson of Goose Creek was among a distinguished group of World War II veterans who took part in last month’s Lowcountry Honor Flight Program’s trip to Washington, DC.
The group visited the World War II Memorial, the Korean and Vietnam Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, Iwo jima Memorial, and the FDR Memorial. The trip was taken on May 4.
Johnson, the only World War II Veteran to hold the title of Pastor and Bishop in South Carolina, will be celebrating his 90th birthday in November. He is the youngest of three remaining World War II African Americans in Goose Creek; Mr. George Hargrove Sr. (U.S. Navy) is 94 and Mr. Samuel Jefferson (U.S. Army) is 93.
Bishop Johnson was born in Summerton, and at an early age he learned the significance of hard work from his parents. Along with his parents and brothers they moved from Summerton to sharecrop for the Meade family at Marrington Plantation in Goose Creek.
His sharecropping part of his life ended when he was drafted into the United States Navy in 1944. Shortly thereafter, he became Seaman First Class Johnson, serving his country well.
Johnson recently shared his thoughts on his service and life.
Boot camp, he recalled, “was pretty intense and it left me real sore … my instructor’s name was Officer Weed.”
Johnson remembered the beginning of U.S. involvement in World War II.
“After the bombing of Pearl Harbor I can recall boarding the ‘Troop Train’ and we were headed for Great Lake, Illinois,” he said. “It was a two-day trip that I never would forget because we ran out of food along the way … we eventually ate but our commander made sure he ate long before us.”
Johnson credited a fellow soldier he called C.J. Johnson for “talking about the goodness of the Lord. It changed my whole life.”
As a great leader over the years, Johnson continues to be a beacon of light in the Goose Creek Community and surrounding areas. For his love, compassion, family oriented experiences and cultural understanding of Goose Creek, he has been cited numerous times for his leadership, including by Goose Creek Mayor Michael Heitzler who declared October 2, 2011 Bishop Johnie Johnson day in The City of Goose Creek.
He received additional citations and proclamations from the Goose Creek NAACP and a host of other elected officials including the governor.
“The trip was a blessed experience for me,” said Johnson.
Bishop Johnson is married to Lady Mary Ann Ellis. He is the Pastor of Calvary COGIC in Goose Creek, and is also the South Carolina Jurisdictional Prelate for The Church Of God In Christ. Bishop Charles E. Blake is the Presiding Bishop.
On the recent trip, Johnson was shadowed by Retired Navy Man Tim Gourdine also a native of Goose Creek, his neice Chaplain Elaine Barnett, writer and videographer, Pastor Reggie Wooten of New York, and his grandson Nicholas Gourdine was elated to be there and take a part in this historic event.
Editor’s note: The version of this story that ran in last week’s Gazette contained incorrect information concerning the late PFC Larry R. Gourdine, who lost his life serving as a U.S. Marine in Vietnam. The newspaper regrets the error.