Betty L. Johnson

A Founder Of The City Temple Of Baltimore Baptist Church, She Served The Homeless, Prison Inmates And Children

August 22, 2009|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,

Betty L. Johnson, an indefatigable church worker and a founder of the City Temple of Baltimore Baptist Church who also ministered to the homeless and hungry, prison inmates and pregnant teenagers, died Aug. 13 of a stroke at the Joseph Richey House hospice in Baltimore.

The longtime Elgin Avenue resident was 94.

Betty Law, the daughter of a Baptist minister and a homemaker, was born and raised in Merry Hill, N.C.

After graduating from C. G. White High School in Powellsville, N.C., Mrs. Johnson earned a teaching degree from what is now Elizabeth City State University.

Mrs. Johnson moved to Baltimore in the early 1950s, and studied at the Cortez Peters Business School and the Community College of Baltimore.

She was married in 1956 to Herman L. "Daddy" Johnson, who later became a Maryland Transit Administration bus driver, and settled on Elgin Avenue.

Mrs. Johnson worked as a riveter for several years at the old Glenn L. Martin Co. plant in Middle River before becoming secretary at Wayland Baptist Church, where she also was a member.

Other activities at the church included working as a Sunday school teacher, singing in the choir and doing missionary outreach work.

When Wayland moved to its present home on Garrison Avenue, Mrs. Johnson expanded her role. She began working with the Rev. Elizabeth Logan in handling the church's business affairs and daily operation of its day care center.

In 1969, when the church's pastor, the Rev. William W. Payne, resigned, Mrs. Johnson and Ms. Logan assisted him in founding his new church, the City Temple of Baltimore Baptist Church, at University Hall.

A year later, the fledgling church moved into the former Eutaw Place Baptist Church, at Eutaw and Dolphin streets, that has been its home for the last 39 years.

Mrs. Johnson busied herself with establishing an outreach ministry, Sunday school and youth department while working as church secretary and with the Diaconate Ministry.

"Betty has been a true disciple of Christ. She demonstrated what it is to be a Christian and do what God wants you to do," Ms. Logan said.

"Her entire life was focused around the church," she said. "She did a variety of things and put her shoulders to the wheel. When the new building had to be cleaned out, she was right there doing the dirty work."

For 17 years, Mrs. Johnson was a volunteer chaplain for the city jails. In addition to her work with inmates, she worked to feed and house the homeless, as well as helping abused children and unwed teenage mothers.

"I recall back in the 1970s when she organized a Thanksgiving dinner for the hungry, and we fed 5,000 people," Ms. Logan recalled.

The Rev. Grady A. Yeargin has been pastor of City Temple of Baltimore Baptist Church since 1986.

"Betty was one of the first persons I met when I came to City Temple. She was an unusually gifted and talented individual who used her gifts to help her church and the community," Mr. Yeargin said. "Her church and community work was her life, and she only stopped being involved when her health began to fail."

Mr. Yeargin recalled her work with the church's Outreach Ministry, which helped the needy with unpaid electric bills, feeding the homeless and encouraging unwed mothers.

"Betty would do anything she could to help raise the quality of their lives and she was willing to do it," Mr. Yeargin said.

Mrs. Johnson, who was known as a charismatic and inspirational speaker, also held church-related positions on the local, state and national level.

She had been president of the women's auxiliary from 1977 to 1981 of the United Baptist Missionary Conventions and Auxiliaries of Maryland; and was a former president of the Church Women United of Greater Baltimore and a former trustee of the Maryland Baptist Aged Home.

Mrs. Johnson was a past officer and registrar of the United Baptist College and Seminary in Randallstown; former historian of the women's auxiliary of the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Board; former worship board chairperson of the Lott Carey Foreign Mission Board; and past life membership co-chairwoman of the National Baptist Convention U.S.A.

Services for Mrs. Johnson were held at her church Friday.

In addition to her husband, she is survived by a sister, Ruth James of Merry Hill, N.C.; and many nieces and nephews.

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