Calvin J. Johnson was a true Renaissance man who did many things well, his daughter Bernadine Barnes said.
Barnes said her father cherished his four daughters and one son, treating each with love, attention and respect.
Johnson worked as a free-lance journalist and syndicated columnist, and his fondest memory was a 1963 one-on-one interview with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The only African-American journalist in the area at the time, Johnson told Barnes he would never forget that day.
Johnson worked at the U.S. Post Office for 40 years, retiring as Postmaster of the Brunswick branch.
A U.S. Army veteran, Johnson, 89, of Merrillville, spent three years in the South Pacific in an all-black unit assigned to track and capture enemy soldiers during World War II. He was featured in Ken Burns’ documentary “World War II.”
“He was very excited about it,” Barnes said. “He felt proud of his duty and of his service.”
While working at the Gary Golf Club, Johnson, who loved playing golf for 70 years, caddied for Joe Louis.
Barnes said the dignified, intelligent men, including many doctors and judges from Chicago, he met caddying made a lasting impression.
“At that time he made up his mind that these were the black men he wanted to be,” Barnes said.
His family, led by his grandfather, Professor Williams, migrated from Mississippi to East Chicago. In the 1800s, Williams was one of the first men of color in the area to receive a college degree. Johnson’s mother, a teacher, also stressed the value of education as did he. The legacy continued with Johnson’s children and grandchildren, who all have degrees from prestigious universities, including one with a doctorate in bioengineering. Two great-grandchildren recently started college.
His encouragement of the Association of Black Cardiologists efforts to eradicate racial disparities in health care earned him an honorary membership.
Before Johnson died, he visited each of his daughters, traveling with his son to Denver, Houston and Washington D.C., where he was touched seeing his unit’s name on the World War II monument.