Jeanette Johnson, 97, taught in city schools more than 40 years

April 28, 2004|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Jeanette Johnson, a retired educator who taught for more than four decades in West Baltimore elementary schools, died of congestive heart failure April 21 at Frederick Villa Nursing Center. The West Baltimore resident was 97.

Born Jeanette Lawson in Baltimore, she was raised on Lee Street in what is now the Otterbein neighborhood. She was a 1926 graduate of Frederick Douglass High School and earned a diploma from what is now Coppin State University. She received a degree in early childhood education from Morgan State.

She earned a master's degree from New York University in an era when African-Americans were not admitted to Maryland's state-supported graduate schools.

"She stayed in New York hotels while getting her degree," said a granddaughter, Debra Watkins of Randallstown. "She commuted by the B&O Railroad during the school year and stayed over during the summer."

Beginning her teaching career in the early 1930s, she was assigned to elementary school No. 140 at Carrollton Avenue and Lexington Street. She later taught at Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School No. 110, at Fremont and Waesche avenues. She retired as a senior teacher in 1972 from John H. Murphy School at Gilmor and Mosher streets.

"We taught in a poor section, but Jeanette made sure she instilled a sense of pride in her students," said a teaching colleague, Geraldine Griner of Baltimore. "She was an excellent math teacher and knew her subject matter well. She was a disciplined person who was fair with her students. She made sure her pupils had a good foundation for the future."

Family members said that former students often recognized her.

"We never went anywhere that somebody didn't say, `Miss Johnson,'" said her granddaughter. "They often said, `You helped me to be what I am today.' She was a strict disciplinarian, but there was no mistaking where her love came from. She was disciplining you because she wanted you to do well."

Her first husband, Joseph Horried, died many years ago. Her second husband of 39 years, Vernon E. Johnson Sr., a city liquor board inspector, died in 1980.

After her son, Vernon Johnson, was killed in an automobile accident in 1965, she established a memorial award in his name at James Mosher Elementary School that was given to a promising youngster who played baseball in the Mosher Little League.

"She led a rich and full life," said Mae Cornish, a friend of many years. "She was also an excellent dancer. I remember her getting up and showing a group of youngsters how to do the Charleston."

Mrs. Johnson was a member for 53 years of Holy Trinity Episcopal Church, where services were held yesterday.

Survivors also include a daughter, Frances Miles of Baltimore; two additional grandchildren; six great-grandchildren; and four great-great-grandchildren.

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