Memorial services for Raymond L. Johnson will be held today at 11 a.m. at Holman United Methodist Church, 3320 West Adams Blvd. He was 89.
Johnson was born on July 31, 1922, in Providence, R.I., to Jacob and Lelia Johnson. The youngest of five children, he would attend Howard University before being drafted into the Army and stationed at Walla Walla, Wash., where he was assigned to maintain airplane radios.
However, Johnson scored so high on an examination that he was transferred to the training school for pilots at Tuskegee, Ala., as one of the original Tuskegee Airmen. He was subsequently selected as captain of his class.
Johnson would later become a medical technologist, judge pro tem, a civil rights attorney, a college professor and community activist. He died at the Los Angeles Wadsworth Memorial Veteran’s Hospital on Dec. 31, 2011, due to complications from pneumonia and heart failure. He served the Los Angeles community during battles against overt segregation and discrimination, the ensuing Watts Riot and unrest, through his leadership in the NAACP.
After his honorable discharge from the Army, Johnson enrolled in a residency program at Rochester General Hospital in New York. Upon graduation, he received a degree as a medical technologist from the American Society of Clinical Pathology and passed the New York State Boards at his first sitting. He returned to Washington, D.C., and opened a diagnostic medical laboratory. He continued his medical studies in hematology at Howard University Medical School. This resulted in his being selected as medical technologist in charge of the hematology department at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.
In 1953, Johnson entered Howard Law School and concentrated on issues of medical legal law, medical malpractice and ethics. During this time, he was appointed to the law review staff at the School of Law and worked with the late Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall on the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court case.
Armed with his law degree, Johnson moved to Los Angeles and served on the hospital staffs of Cedars Sinai, University, Westside and Broadway hospitals. He became active in the NAACP and worked to expose hiring discrimination against Blacks by major Los Angeles hospitals. His work reversed this policy.
In 1971, Johnson was asked to aid in the formation of Charles Drew Medical School and Martin Luther King Hospital. As assistant professor at Charles Drew Medical School, Johnson taught students and residents medical legal issues and assisted with medical ethics discussions.
Johnson served as a judge pro tem (temporary judge) for the Los Angeles County Superior Court, as judicial arbitrator and mediator, and as an arbitrator for the American Arbitration Association. He was founder of both the Howard Alumni Association of Southern California and the local Howard University Law Alumni Association. In 1976, he was selected Attorney of the Year by the Los Angeles Sentinel and received numerous awards for his work with the NAACP, especially during the Watts rebellion for providing free legal services.
Johnson was invited to the White House a number of times–once, by President Lyndon B. Johnson to attend the President’s Conference on Economic Development and Civil Rights. In 2007, President George W. Bush and the United States Congress awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to a cadre of surviving Tuskegee Airmen, a highlight of his career.
A devout and active member of Holman Methodist Church, Johnson once served as chairman of the board and interacted with Martin Luther King Jr. on behalf of the church.
He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Evelyn, their three children, Raymond Johnson Jr., J.D.; Marjorie Johnson Warren, M.D., and Robert Johnson, D.D.S.; three granddaughters, Alexis Warren; Erica Johnson, M.D., and Ashley Johnson.