William Calvin Johnson, 79, chemist at Aberdeen facility

September 17, 1998|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

William Calvin Johnson, a chemist at the old Army Chemical Center in Aberdeen for nearly 40 years and a former instructor at the Dunbar Evening School in Baltimore, died Saturday of natural causes at Union Memorial Hospital.

Mr. Johnson, 79, of Ashburton in West Baltimore, was a research analyst who studied the composition of complex chemical compounds at the Harford County facility now known as Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Mr. Johnson worked at the facility from 1951 to 1988, and was one of the government's first black chemists.

pTC "He worked on a lot of highly secretive work," said John Thompson, a longtime friend and former co-worker. "He was always on top of what he was doing. He went out of his way to share his skills with others.

"He was fantastic at everything he did, but he didn't show it."

Mr. Johnson was known as a quiet and very smart man who enjoyed his work. Although he was considered an expert in his field, he routinely took courses to further his knowledge.

"He was a genius and a pioneer in his field," said his son, Spencer Johnson of Fort Washington. "He seemed to always enjoy his work and was tops in his field."

Born in Earl, Ark., and raised in Memphis, Tenn., Mr. Johnson came to Baltimore in 1940 and graduated from the old Cortez Peters Business School in 1942.

He served in the Army from 1943 to 1946 and was stationed in England and France during World War II. Upon his discharge, he attended the former Morgan State College, where he majored in chemistry and math and graduated in 1949.

He later took graduate courses at University of Maryland and Fisk University.

From 1958 to 1968, he was a math, chemistry and physics instructor at the Dunbar Evening School in East Baltimore.

He was known as a stoic but always accessible teacher.

"As a teacher, he always seemed comfortable with the subject," said Glen Denard, one of his former students. "He had a vast and quick knowledge of math and wasn't one of those types of teachers that knew something, but couldn't teach it. He conveyed the subject well."

He was a member of the American Chemical Society, Morgan State University Science Technology Support Association, American Bridge Association and Northwest Bridge Club.

For 50 years, he was a member of St. Katherine's Episcopal Church in West Baltimore. He was treasurer at the church and a senior warden.

Services are scheduled for 10: 30 a.m. today at St. Katherine's, 2001 Division St.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife, the former Corinne Fry, whom he married in 1946; two sisters, Virgil Bynum and Florence Chalmers, both of Memphis; and two grandchildren.

Donations may be made to Morgan State University School of Engineering, Cold Spring Lane and Hillen Road, Baltimore.

Pub Date: 9/17/98

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