Robert Johnson, community activist most recently known for his persistent efforts to improve Harbor Road and life-long pillar of the Zion Baptist Church, died Saturday, May 16, at Northport Veteran's Hospital of complications from multiple illnesses. He was 79.
His widow, Maude Johnson, said that although she's glad that he doesn't have to suffer any more, her big regret is that her husband didn't live to see his dream come true - of having Harbor Road as nice as the rest of Port Washington.
Roberta Nixon, a highly respected civic activist who worked beside Mr. Johnson in his efforts on behalf of the residents of Harbor Road said, "Robert was an instrumental part of the community who looked out for problems or things that would effect our community. He will be greatly missed by members of this community and always remembered for his perserverance in getting the road project underway."
A funeral service was held at the Zion Baptist Church on May 21, at which many friends and dignitaries shared their memories of Robert Johnson, and a soldier from Fort Hamilton presented his widow with an American flag. Interment was at Nassau Knolls Cemetery.
The following Monday, Robert Johnson was eulogized once again, at the ceremony concluding Port Washington's Memorial Day Parade, where he had so proudly served as Grand Marshall the year before. The audience observed a minute of silence in his memory. Anyone wishing to honor Robert Johnson further, with a memorial contribution, can send it to the Zion Baptist Church, 118 Harbor Road.
Robert Johnson, son of Sadie Blunt Johnson and Robert Johnson, was born Dec. 26, 1919 and departed this life on May 16, 1998 at the North Port Veterans Hospital.
Robert Johnson was a native of Port Washington where he lived all of his life. He attended the Port Washington school system and graduated from Port Washington Senior High School. From high school, Robert joined the United States Army.
Robert is affectionately known to family and friends as "Brother."
In 1940 Robert enlisted in the United States military service. He was put in the US Cavalry stationed at West Point. He was attached in the 9th and 10th Cavalry Division which was nicknamed the "Buffalo Soldiers." The Buffalo Soldier units became the renowned African-American units of the 9th and 10th Cavalry Division which were made up of young African-American males, except for the officers.
In 1949 President Harry S. Truman desegregated the military and appointed African-American officers to the units. The units were used mainly to assist the West Point cadets in their equestrian training. From West Point, Robert went to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; Fort Riley, Kansas; Fort Myers, Virginia and then off to Yokohama, Japan where he was assigned to the 212th military police.
While in Kansas, Robert met and married Jane Sowell and to this union three children were born: Barbara, Robert and Gloria.
He fought along with the regular US Cavalry troops, but after six years, the Cavalry was used mainly for ceremonial affairs. The majority of Robert's 21 years in the service was served overseas in Germany, France and Japan. After the war, Robert came back to the states and was assigned to the 9th Military Police, a special unit attached to the New York City police force. He was stationed at the 135th Street and 32nd Avenue Precinct where they lived in the police station. After two years in New York City, he was given a special assignment in 1960 when he was sent to Germany in the Signal Corps. After a short stay in Germany, he was then ordered to Iran to serve under Major Haakala, supply advisor to the Imperial Iranian Army.
In 1961, Robert was honorably discharged from the US military after serving his country for 20 years. He was offered schooling through the GI Bill and attended Purdue Beauty School in Harlem and then downtown New York City where he received his license as a cosmetologist.
Robert and Maud Calinda joined hands in holy matrimony on June 19, 1965 and have enjoyed 32 years of love and happiness. They were married by Rev. J.B. Watts.
Robert went to work for R.B. Hamilton Moving and Storage and served as warehouse manager for 14 years. He retired from R.B. Hamilton in 1979.
Robert Johnson was born the same year as Zion Baptist was established, and attended Zion all of his life. He was baptized at the age of 12 by Rev. Robert L. Ryan. He has served as Sunday School superintendent, trustee, chairperson of the trustee board, chairperson of the Church Anniversary and other offices of the church. He held the oldest membership of Zion Baptist Church and thus was appointed as Father of the Church.
Robert Johnson, community activist, fought long and hard to have his community as nice as the surrounding communities. He remained active, calling meetings, writing letters, meeting with politicians and members of town hall until his death.
Robert was a member of Legion Post 509 (American Legion in Port Washington) and was the first and only black Grand Marshall in Port Washington (this was one of the proudest moments in his life).
Robert leaves to cherish his memories his loving and devoted wife, Maud Johnson; two daughters, Barbara Hutcherson of Kansas City, Kansas, and Gloria Bogan of Fort Collins, Colorado; one son, Robert Johnson of Spring, Texas; six grandchildren and one great-grandchild; three stepsons, Charles Calinda of New York, Richard Calinda (deceased), Laurence Calinda of Laguna Beach, California; eight step-grandchildren and five step-great grandchildren; three sisters Ella Manda Welch (deceased), Minnie B. Nixon and Constance Ashford of New York, two brothers William and Richard Johnson (both deceased); and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.