Despite Being Awarded the Purple Heart and Fighting for Civil Rights Alongside MLK Jr., Rev. B.J. Johnson Jr. is Remembered as a Humble Man Who “Never Missed a Chance to Help Others”

The black and white picture was taken by Jet magazine. It shows Rev. B.J. Johnson participating in a November 1965 protest at a black-owned downtown Atlanta barber shop that served only white patrons.
The black and white picture was taken by Jet magazine. It shows Rev. B.J. Johnson participating in a November 1965 protest at a black-owned downtown Atlanta barber shop that served only white patrons.

No task was too mundane for the Rev. B.J. Johnson Jr. as pastor of Greater Mt. Calvary Baptist Church.

He would roll up his shirtsleeves to mop and mow the grass. He’d shop for groceries for meals the church provided to the homeless and hungry. Sometimes, he’d even help cook the food, too.

“He would always avail himself to help others,” said church member Mollie Wainwright of Atlanta. “He would even go to a member’s house and mow the lawn. He was there for everything. He was a wonderful person.”

Johnson of Atlanta died April 8. He was 83. His funeral was April 11 at Kingdom Difference Church, the historic site of Greater Mt. Calvary Baptist in Atlanta’s Mechanicsville community.

He was born in 1931 in the Atlanta neighborhood of Pittsburgh, just south of downtown near West End and Mechanicsville. His upbringing as a preacher’s kid at Greater Mt. Calvary nurtured his zeal for education, ministry, community activism and human rights.

In 1950, he graduated from Booker T. Washington High School, where he played football, baseball and basketball. He attended Morehouse College for two years before leaving in 1952 to join the Army. He served in the Korean War and was awarded the Purple Heart.

After the war, he returned to Morehouse and graduated in 1958. He worked at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and participated in civil rights protests with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

Johnson attended Turner Theological Seminary in Atlanta and began his journey in the ministry at three Atlanta area Baptist churches before following in the footsteps of his grandfather and father at Greater Mt. Calvary.

For nearly a century, four generations of his family have served as pastor of the church.

His grandfather, Benjamin Johnson, was a founding member and pastor from 1917 to 1927. Then his father, Benjamin Joseph Johnson Sr., took the helm for a 50-year tenure that included working with the Rev. Martin Luther King Sr. on civil rights causes in the 1940s and 1950s. The church hosted civil rights meetings. Atlanta’s first black police officers were honored there in 1948.

In 1977, Johnson succeeded his father as pastor and retired in 2012. Now his nephew, Albert Lindsey Jr., leads the flock. Under Lindsey’s leadership, the church was renamed Kingdom Difference about two years ago.

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SOURCE: Atlanta Journal Constitution – C.G. Freightman

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