Walter Samuel "Sam" Johnson, a decorated veteran Baltimore police officer who was admired for his mentoring of younger members of the department, died Jan. 22 of heart disease at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
The longtime Woodlawn resident was 63.
Born in Baltimore and raised in East Baltimore, Mr. Johnson was known from his childhood as "Sam" or "Sammy."
After graduating from Dunbar High School in 1965, Sergeant Johnson attended what is now Morgan State University part time while working in the wire mill at Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s Sparrows Point plant.
"There was a layoff at Sparrows Point, and against my wishes, Sam became a police officer," said his high school and college sweetheart, the former Carol Cox, whom he married in 1968. "It was his caring concern for his young family that led him to this occupation."
Sergeant Johnson attended the University of Baltimore, Coppin State University and the Community College of Baltimore, eventually earning a degree in criminal justice.
Sergeant Johnson's career took him from the Southwestern to Southeastern District, and from the Western District to police headquarters, where he served with the telephone reporting unit.
In 1979, Sergeant Johnson was awarded a departmental Bronze Star for coming to the aid of a disarmed officer, Ronald Tracey.
When he arrived on the scene, Mr. Johnson found Carl Jeffries, a city employee, pointing the officer's .38-caliber Smith & Wesson police revolver at Mr. Tracey.
Mr. Johnson fired one shot, striking Mr. Jeffries in the chest; he later died at the old Lutheran Hospital.
"Sam came on a life-threatening scene, took control and saved that officer's life," former Police Commissioner Leonard D. Hamm, now head of security at Coppin State University, said Thursday.
Sergeant Johnson retired in 1992.
Called "Sarge" by his fellow officers, he was known for his caring manner.
"He would speak to his younger colleagues about sensibility, financial matters and just plain common sense," said Mrs. Johnson, a retired Baltimore businesswoman.
Mrs. Johnson said that many times, she and their son would encounter strangers who wanted to tell them what a difference Sergeant Johnson had made in their lives.
"They'd want to share how much Sarge had helped them. Many expressed gratitude at the priceless advice he bestowed on them," she said.
Mr. Hamm said that Sergeant Johnson was "one of the wisest men I've ever run across in my life."
"He mentored me and helped me raise my son and daughter. He was always willing to give of himself," Mr. Hamm recalled.
"Sam was very smart and wise about money matters, and helped me and others with career decisions in the department," he said. "He fought for those in the department who were sworn and not sworn. He was straightforward and a leader, and everyone respected and loved him for it."
Mr. Hamm and Sergeant Johnson had been friends for years.
"I know Sam's heart. I got to know his family, and he accepted me as a member of his family," Mr. Hamm said. "Sam was also a very spiritual man who knew his Bible backward and forward."
When Sergeant Johnson was a member of the Christian Community Church, he sang with the church choir.
As his health began to decline, he and his wife went to services and Bible study classes at Macedonia Christian Center, which was close to their Woodlawn home and easier for him to attend.
Sergeant Johnson was a Civil War buff. He also enjoyed fishing, traveling, crossword puzzles and handling home-improvement projects.
Services were held Wednesday at Higher Dimension Worship Center.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Stephen Mark Johnson of Baltimore; his mother, Mattie Johnson of Rosedale; two brothers, Willie Johnson of Pikesville and Robert Johnson of Northwood; two sisters, Mattie Thompson of Rosedale and Josephine Davis of Sparks; and a granddaughter.