Janet Johnson 1932-2012; JU Educator Had Role in Black History Civil Rights Leaders Met at Her Home; She Later Founded Upward Bound

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland

Janet Johnson, a retired Jacksonville University educator whose home was the site of strategy sessions held by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., died Wednesday of congestive heart failure. She was 79.

Mrs. Johnson's late husband, Earl Johnson Sr., the City Council's first African-American president, was an attorney and adviser to King.

In 1964, King and the Rev. Ralph Abernathy, who helped start the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, and Andrew Young, who became mayor of Atlanta, met after dark in the Johnson home.

That was to divert attention from their residence for safety reasons, said Mrs. Johnson's son, Earl Johnson Jr. The men were planning a series of desegregation protests, including one in St. Augustine that led to King's arrest that same year. Johnson Sr., who died in 1988, represented King in that case.

Mrs. Johnson told the Times-Union she wanted to be involved in their conversations but never got the chance because she was "always having to quiet the baby in the other room" or make sandwiches.

But she made an impact on hundreds of students at JU, including Mayor Alvin Brown.

She came to the campus in 1971 as its first black faculty member, her son said. In 1977, she founded Upward Bound, a federally funded program that helps promising students at struggling high schools prepare for college.

More than 1,400 students participated during her 22 years as director. She also started a Special Services program to assist financially or culturally disadvantaged JU students. …


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