The late Johnnie Johnson, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is about to receive another prestigious award, the Congressional Gold Medal. The Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom are the highest civilian honors in the United States, going to people whose achievements had an impact on American history and culture.
“It’s beyond happy, ecstatic,” said Frances Johnson, Johnnie Johnson’s widow. “Eleven years he’s been gone and I’m still extremely proud of him.”
Frances Johnson said details about the medal ceremony for her late husband are still being worked out.
Johnson’s recognition by Congress is not because of the world class piano playing that landed him in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Instead, it’s Johnson’s military history that’s being recognized. Johnson was a Montford Point Marine, the African-American Marines who endured racism and inspired social change while integrating the previously all-white Marine Corps during World War II.
”Those first blacks trained at a place called Camp Montford Point near Jacksonville, North Carolina,” said Joe Geeter, national president of the Montford Point Marine Association. “From 1942 to 1949, nearly 24,000 African-American men received their Marine Corp recruit training at Camp Montford Point.”
Geeter said beginning in 2012, more than 700 Montford Point Marines have received the Congressional Gold Medal as the organization spreads word about the award.
“A lot of folks are just now getting the word. Even though we advertised in over 400 newspapers prior to the gold medal ceremony in 2012, we’re receiving calls almost daily from family members who say my dad or granddad was one of those Marines,” said Geeter.
For more information about the Montford Point Marines,