Winfield Harry Johnson, 83 active in civil rights, educational pursuits
San Diego Union-Tribune, The (CA) - Tuesday, December 9, 2003
Winfield Harry Johnson's commitment to education was no less profound than his support of civil rights.
In the early 1950s, he became one of the San Diego Police Department's first black officers after applying several times. "He was campaigning to open doors," said his wife, Betty Mae.
Decades later, while working in management for Solar Turbines, he earned bachelor's and master's degrees in business and received an honorary doctorate in humane letters at National University.
Mr. Johnson, who went on to become chairman of the National University board of directors, died Wednesday at Alvarado Hospital Medical Center. He was 83.
The cause of death was complications from various ailments, including congestive heart failure, his wife said.
During 55 years in San Diego, Mr. Johnson served as president of the San Diego Race Relations Society and served as a mentor for Links Inc., a program that provides social and cultural programs for black youngsters.
He served on the boards of directors of the Elementary Institute of Science and the Family Service Association and was president of the Solar Founders Club, an association of retirees.
Mr. Johnson, a longtime Skyline-area resident, was born in Homestead, Pa. He grew up in Tucson, where he graduated from high school in 1937.
After two years at the University of Arizona, he joined the war effort and built and repaired submarines at Mare Island in Vallejo.
In 1948, he moved to San Diego to be closer to his twin brother, Garfield. When his brother died a decade later, he assumed the role of surrogate father for his brother's four children.
Mr. Johnson joined what was then Solar Aircraft after a year at the San Diego Police Department. Working as a machinist, he was soon promoted to a management role. He retired in 1980.
During the 1950s, he studied law at the University of San Diego School of Law. He left before earning a degree due to financial considerations, his wife said.
In addition to his wife of 54 years, survivors include his daughter, Kathy White of San Diego; son, Garwin Johnson of San Diego; sister, Rena Haynes of Los Angeles; and four grandchildren.