We hear the phrase “It’s never too late” all the time. This story is proof positive that sometimes that adage is wonderfully true.
On her 99 birthday that saying became wonderfully true for WWII veteran and school teacher, Elizabeth Barker Johnson. Here’s why.
Barker Johnson joined the Women’s Army Corps early in the war and served with the 6888th Central Postal Directory Bn, the only all Black, all female unit to serve overseas in a war zone during WWII. I have written about this battalion once before. It is a remarkable story in its own right.
After returning to the United States from Europe in 1945 at the end of the war, Barker Johnson went to college, like so many of her fellow male and female veterans, on the G-I Bill. She became the first Black woman to attend the then Winston-Salem Teachers College on the G-I Bill. She completed her teaching degree in 1949, but was already working as a teacher and could not get a substitute for her work on the scheduled Graduation Day and was unable to attend the ceremonies and to “walk” with her fellow graduates to receive her degree.
Barker Johnson would go on to a long and successful career in teaching in the Winston-Salem area. Her son, David Johnson, 60, says of her, “She’s faced war, she’s faced racism along the way as the only Black school teacher in her area for a long time. She’s a remarkable woman.”
Now, seventy years later, on her 99th birthday, she received a wonderful surprise from officials at the now Winston-Salem State University. They have invited her to walk with this year’s graduating class. She is thrilled.
The Veterans Site sends its deepest regards and congratulations to Elizabeth Barker Johnson. We honor her and thank her both for her service to the nation in the Women’s Army Corps and the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion in WWII, and for her long and noble service as a teacher.
You have shown us what a noble life looks like. May you enjoy the excitement and praise of your “walk” at Winston-Salem State University’s graduation ceremonies this year. It truly is “never too late” to receive the honors you are due.
Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site Blog.