In Memoriam of a Giant of the Bronx

This is the biography of Adolphus Johnson, as recounted by his daughter Christie.

En medias res

It is hard to know where to start telling the story of a man’s life, but alas the beginning is as good a time as any other. Adolphus Johnson was born in Pratt city, Birmingham, Alabama in 1932. The second born child, Adolphus Johnson is survived by his elder brother Dr. Tobe Johnson, Jr., born in 1929.* Adolphus Johnson served dutifully in the Korean War and as a social welfare officer and supervisor of the Kingsbridge Armory Women’s Shelter in the Bronx, NY. He leaves behind his doting wife Phellie Johnson, his son David Johnson and his daughter Christie Johnson Satti. He also leaves behind, in grief, his three beloved grandchildren Ahlam, Rayan and Rza. Adolphus Johnson will be laid to rest at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, NY.

*Amended: Dr. Tobe Johnson, Jr. passed on, shortly after his brother. Celebrate his legacy, along with Morehouse University, by watching his Memorial Service.

The Piano

His birth story tells you, in an instance, all you need to know about the fortitude of Adolphus Johnson

Adolphus Johnson’s story begins prior to 1932. His mother, Evelyn Huntley, was born in 1902, where her parents had been sharecroppers in Linden county, Alabama. My father told me that his mother passed down this story. When her parents decided to leave the plantation, the landowner, rifle in hand, stopped their carriage, and demanded their personal belongings. Thus, they would have to stake out their fortune in the world, empty-handed. Which they did. Evelyn’s mother died far too young, placing my grandmother in a precarious situation, as a young motherless girl. Looking for her father, she chose to move alone to the big city, Birmingham, first as a teenager, then again as a young woman, with little else but her strength and determination to carry her through.

Grandmama Evelyn was 30 years old at the time Adolphus was born. Unremarkable today, her age belied her personal tragedy. She had suffered many stillbirths and children who died young, including a sister my father remembered. This caused my grandmother much heartache, of course. His birth story tells you, in an instance, all you need to know about the fortitude of Adolphus Johnson. My father and his elder brother Tobe, Jr. were hardy and born of strong constitution and this remained true their entire lives. As I have been told, their childhood was difficult financially. Despite the great standing that their father Tobe, Sr. had in their community and his educational achievements, which allowed him to be a manager at the mechanical shop at U.S. Steele, supervising white men, uncommon during the Jim Crowe era. Adolphus was born in the midst of the Great Depression of 1929–1939, the most difficult financial time for most Americans. A bottle of buttermilk and a loaf of bread might have been considered a meal for my father’s family.

My grandmother remained sickly throughout her life. As a young mother she suffered ‘Women’s Issues’ as it was known at the time. Neighbours walking by the family home could hear her babies crying — these cries belonged to my father and his brother. The women of the community — the Wade, Gregory and Powell families — banded together and helped grandmother the best they could, ensuring that her two baby boys not only survived, but would also thrive in love.

Grandmother Evelyn in her home in Birmingham, Alabama

Ms. Barbara Jean tells the story, her aunties in particular, took a liking to my young father. He was such an introverted and shy boy. He was thusly spoiled by the elder women. But when their first biological grandchild came into their lives, a little girl, no less, the grandmother’s squawked over her. As I have heard it, my father never got over this childhood experience. Nevertheless, my father grew up very attached to the coattails of his mother. He might have been found in the kitchen by her side, preferring to bury his nose in a comic book, rather than playing with the children outside.

Adolphus Johnson, age 9 stands with Barbara Jean Wade age 4, circa 1941

My father and his brother Tobe, Jr. were expected to help the family financially. They would walk around the neighbourhood selling granddaddy‘s famous barbecue, along with fruit or nuts from their garden.

My father acquired two activities during his early childhood, which stimulated and readied his mind for personal reflection, a trait of his, which continued throughout his life. Firstly, the prodigious talent that my father had for playing the piano was nurtured by yet another neighbour, Mrs. Reed. Mrs. Reed’s daughter Waymo Robertson would also become one of my father’s childhood teachers. And even my babysitter at one point. Mrs. Robinson’s tragic story was featured in Spike Lee’s award winning documentary film “Four Little Girls” which discusses the Birmingham Church bombing that claimed the life of her young niece Carole Robertson.

A visit with my father to Waymo Robinson circa 2010 just before she passed.

My grandfather died when my father was 12 years old. In the intervening years my grandmother expanded the family business, turning half of her house into a shop selling local workers light meals and kept the local children supplied with soda pop and candy. Grandmother was able to sustain my father‘s music lessons and ensured that her boys continued their schooling.

Tobe Johnson, Sr. was born in 1892 in Marengo County, Alabama. Marengo county was so named after a strategic victory during the Napoleonic War, in which many European allies — were gifted land in the South — a policy which began with President Thomas Jefferson — to honour those who helped to suppress the Haitian Revolution. My grandfather’s parents had both been enslaved by a community of French and Prussian immigrants, who walked their slaves, infamously, from South Carolina to their new settlement in Alabama, at the turn of the century. His father Jesse Johnson was born in 1832, a full century before his grandson, my father. According to family heritage passed down as lore, Jesse’s parentage included a white slave owner of Dutch or Prussian origin, and an enslaved African woman bought on auction block in South Carolina. My great grandfather was legally described as mulatto and farmer in the Census of 1870.

By some miracle of fate, his last born child Tobe was able to attain ‘some university.’ Although a lot of this history has been lost to the annals of time, much has been retained. Tobe Johnson, Sr. was known as Big Red, for his bright complexion. And, as my father would say, Tobe Sr. used to his advantage his relationship with both white and black residents of the community, commanding great respect as he mediated tensions between the two ethnic groups. Thus, our family begins at the crux of the Peculiar Institution, which is Antebellum Slavery, and connects my father’s story to the rich African-American experience.

US Steele Employee Badge Tobe Johnson, Sr.

Chess

The second activity that sustained my father throughout his life, was his passion for chess. When Adolphus Johnson came of age, he like many other men of his station, joined the military. My father served in the Korean war, which was the very first desegregated military campaign. Black and white soldiers room and boarded together. He explained to me, “all of us, black and white men, were leaned over the side of that ship rail, vomiting alongside one another.“ My father explained that, the first day he arrived, which might be hyperbolic, as he was a fantastic storyteller — the priest asked the enlisted men “who can play the organ?” My father was recruited in this endeavour, immediately and played for the troops throughout his enlistment. This was a blessing, as my father did not have to engage in active combat duties, or so the story goes. My father told me that after some time, he learned that his comic books — the very first Superman editions — were priceless and was so very disappointed, after the war ended, rushing home to find that his mother had cleaned out all “his junk.” My father mused over this for the rest of his life.

Adolphus Johnson during the Korean War.

Facilitated by the G.I. Bill Adolphus Johnson was able to enrol and attend university. Initially, he enrolled in Morehouse College, which is where his elder brother Tobe, Jr. had been studying, alongside Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr, no less. My father pursued a degree in music theory. At some point, my father switched universities during his studies and enrolled at Fisk University, where he ultimately was awarded a Bachelors Degree of Arts in English literature in the class of 1956. My father brought me to visit Fisk University when I was a child, very proud of his university. Growing up, I heard often from my father his musings about the biting legacy of slavery and of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois and of their noble pursuits to support the education of the Negro. These giants among men, fought for the rights of the newly emancipated Blacks to attain an education of equal standing with white Americans. This rich history was recounted to me throughout my childhood and grounded me in an African American ethos.

After leaving Fisk university, Adolphus Johnson rejoined the Wade family in Chicago, further aligning my father’s story with Black American experience known as the Great Migration. This northern migration was signified by the multitudes of Black Americans who recognized the social and economic limitations of the segregated Southern states and thus pursued greener pastures up North. In Chicago my father officially joined the work force, putting to use his recently earned degree in literary theory as a public school teacher. In his free time he frequented the roaring nightclubs to experience jazz at its pinnacle. The Sutherland and the Blue Note were music incubators at the time, and all the Greatest artists would have performed there. At some point my father tried his hand in establishing a jazz band with other musicians.

However, it was in the 1960s, when Adolphus Johnson moved to New York City, where my father’s other favoured activity bloomed. I am referring to his passion for chess. As a young child I was dragged to chess bars and chess clubs in lower Manhattan, and I felt it boring to watch my father play match after match after match. These were long journeys, because at the time we lived in the Bronx — nearly an hour travel to the big City.

Daddy playing chess in Hawaii, circa 2004

A day in the life Adolphus Johnson

Adolphus Johnson was not a very organized man. He depended upon my mother to manage the household. On any given day, you were likely to see the New York Times newspaper strewn across the living room floor, or the kitchen table, folded to the chess page — where he kept up to date on the latest chess moves and developments. He kept me abreast of the latest goings on in the chess community and made sure I knew who the reigning chess champion at the time was. He was so fascinated by the idea that one day artificial intelligence might be able to beat the Chess Grandmaster of the world. Often reflecting on this subject, my father would ask my thoughts on the matter. You might see library books, dozens of them opened and sprayed open on every surface — dining room chairs, couch, floor of the car. Always reading no less than 10 books at the same time. My father often sat alone with his chess set playing himself in a match — which he could do for hours at a time and with great amusement to himself. He would often be heard laughing, chuckling to himself, to some private joke. And when caught talking to himself, he would remark one of two things. He might have said “Well, if you’re poor they call you crazy, but if you’re rich they call you eccentric.” Or he might have said, “I was told you’re only crazy if you respond back to yourself.” Daddy really enjoyed his solitary time. You might have likely heard my father banging away at the piano, for up to 2 to 3 hours at a time, at any hour of the day or night. He’d play his favourite jazz standards. He insisted on having the sheet music in front of him while he played; however, he always put his signature stamp on all his performances, combining his two main musical influences: the eccentricity of Thelonious Monk and the flourishes of Errol Garner.

Fatherhood

My father lived alone until he decided to he was tired of living alone.

Adolphus Johnson moved to the Bronx in the 60s and he said at that time it was still very much a Jewish ghetto. When my father first arrived, it would have been viewed as a good place to live for a professional Black man at that time. In 1968 he met Alva, whose birth land was Mexico. I do not know much of what happened in the intervening years before I was born. I do know that my father travelled to Mexico, where he lived for a short period and married. He brought his new wife to live in the Bronx, and daddy’s first child David was born shortly thereafter, in the Big Apple.

This was a difficult time for my father. When he and his wife separated, she returned to Mexico with their toddler-in-tow. I’ve overheard whisperings about a private investigator my dad hired, who was ultimately unable to locate David. Thus, father-and-son were no longer able to maintain their relationship… for a time.

Young David playing daddy’s piano in the Bronx, circa 1970

My father lived alone until he decided he was tired of living alone. Even a loner like my daddy realized that it is truly better to share your life with someone you love. And so my father married my mother, Phellie. This time he travelled to the Philippines. He brought my mother to live with him in the Bronx in 1978. When I was born a year later, the South Bronx was dramatically and radically changed from my father’s earliest years as a resident. The level of abject poverty in our neighbourhood was astounding. I remember when the “Bronx was Burning,” as they say. I crossed the rubble of bricks from burned down apartment buildings on the way to school, holding my daddy‘s hand. This phenomenon was the result of truly evil social welfare policies, in which landlords would often choose to burn down their buildings and claim the insurance money, rather than invest in and accept their newest tenants, which were now low-income African-Americans and recent immigrants from the Caribbean.

When my father married my mother in the Philippines, he returned with his bride to a burgled apartment. He remained very upset through his life that his expansive jazz record collection had been stolen from his apartment. Nothing else. He often reflected on this moment, as a terrible loss he had incurred. However, I like to think that these records were likely used in the nascent hip-hop movement, in which poor Blacks and Caribbean‘s of the South Bronx would use precisely these kind of records to ‘mix and scratch’ in order to make their own contributions to art.

Wakefield Neighborhood, The Bronx, NY

Stephen Hawking stole his “Brief History of Time”…from my fourth grade paper

I asked my father once, why had he chosen his professions. He reflected, “when you were an educated Black man, during the time, there weren’t many professional opportunities available to you.“ It was not only a matter of money, my father would tell me, which gave you access to better housing and quality of life. Although racial discrimination was illegal, segregational housing practices barred professional African-Americans from living in ethnically white neighborhoods. These coveted neighborhoods had lower crime rates, better public schools and social services on account of higher tax rates and discriminatory policing practices. My father shared with me that being married to a Filipino woman gave him access to opportunities that he otherwise wouldn’t have had. After his marriage to my mother there were now two incomes and we were able to move into the North East Bronx, where my father lived with my mother, until his death.

Our new home was where my father spent the next, nearly half century of his life together with my mother. We lived in an established African-American community in which Black residents owned their property for two to three generations. There was pride felt by our neighbours, much like my parents, who were first time home owners. And there was discretionary income to be spent on beautifying their gardens and sending their children to private schools. My mother earned her first Masters degree in the Philippines. As a public school teacher in the Bronx, her degree was not wholly accepted by the NYC Department of Education. So she went back to school to earn her second Masters degree, while also a full-time working mother. My father, who at this point was working as a Social Worker Supervisor at the Kingsbridge Armory, which was retrofitted as the city’s Homeless Women’s Shelter, in the Bronx. My father worked 2 to 3 shifts in a row, often at work from 8 PM to 3 AM and then from 3AM to 8 AM. My mother recounted to me that my father would say, “give me your textbooks for your assignments, I’m going to read them at work.” In this way, when he came home the next day, daddy could help my mother with her assignments and together they could understand the material. During the daytime, while my mother was working, it was my father who most often brought me to school, picked me up after school, and brought me to all of my play dates. My father and I would often visit the library, which was our favourite place and he would be off reading his books about the latest discoveries about Black Holes and Black Matter or Antematter, as he would explain to me, or whatever the latest developments in astrophysics, were, which was his passion at the time.

I recall one movie session with my father, where we watched Legally Blond, and one character remarked to the clueless protagonist, “I was first in my class at Princeton, I have an I.Q. of a hundred and eighty-seven, and it’s been suggested that Stephen Hawking stole his “Brief History of Time”…from my fourth grade paper” to which my father responded with uproarious laughter and a long drawn out “Shiiiiiiiiit!” with his signature southern drawl.

My mother was truly the apple of my father’s eye. And he once disclosed, during a particularly frightful medical emergency, that he wants to die with her by his side. My father surmised that his greatest achievement is that he was able to provide for his family. When my mother first arrived to New York he drove her to Filipino social events and encouraged her to develop friendships with the local Filipino community. In his later waning years, when he was frail, daddy encouraged my mother to get out of the house and socialize with her girlfriends. Upon my mother’s return home, he would enjoy hearing of her line dancing, Zumba and yoga classes, as she bursted through the house, recounting story after story after story. He was an excellent listener.

Daddy and Mommy on vacation

When Adolphus Johnson was 65 years of age, he battled cancer for the first time. He had recently been diagnosed with hypertension and diabetes. Thankfully, he was able to retire when I started high school, with months of overtime pay coming to him still! I was very lucky because I held my father’s full time and devotion. He was fascinated by my course readings and would often discuss my schoolwork with me. My father taught me how to write. What an excellent writer he was. He believed in brevity like Hemingway. And when proofreading my schoolwork would often say, reflect your humility in your writing, speak what you know, and admit what you don’t. Be honest in your writing. He also introduced me very early on to great thinkers and debates lost to a bygone era. As daddy was much older than my peers’ parents, I enjoyed classical film, arts, poetry, and music as my foundation.

Legacy

Adolphus Johnson was a philosopher and intellectual. Despite what his academic achievements suggest. My father was driven to pursue answers to the big questions of life.

In 1987 my brother David left his home in Mexico and came to live with us in New York City. My father was very proud of his son and was happy to welcome him back into his life and into his newly purchased home. My brother, followed in his father‘s footsteps and joined the military, the Air Force, a couple of years after he moved to the States. He served in the Gulf War when he was just a boy himself. Despite my brother’s travels around the world, he always came to live near to his father, so that they could rekindle and fortify their severed relationship. My brother took it upon himself to make sure to re-capture some of the lost time. It was a tremendous joy of my father in his late years, that he was able to live near and come to know all of his grandchildren

Throughout my childhood I often had to awaken, in the wee hours of the night, to rouse my father from nightmares. He would scream aloud, “No no no!” And when I finally woke him, he would look at me, his eyes slowly focusing — upon realizing that it was me there true-and-true standing before him, his body would visibly relax. And he would say to me, “I had a nightmare that you would be taken away, that your mother would take you away to the Philippines.” For my father never truly recovered from the loss of his first child, whom he was unable to raise. When I was born my father thought to reimagine himself, as a father. A different sort of father than he had known. My father was present for me in a way that I have never witnessed among my peers. I remember suffering a depression in my early twenties and my mentor filmmaker Haile Gerima said to me — “your life doesn’t only belong to you. You are dancing in the eyes of your parents!” He said that he had never seen anything like it. This caused me pause.

During my formative adolescent years, I had unrestricted access to my father, his love and his affections. My father told me that when he was a child, child abuse was rampant. He shared harrowing personal tales in which the teacher could, and had, whupped him. Then if your mama found out you had been naughty in school, your mama might whip you, too. But lawdy, when your daddy came home he’d get the switch! Even neighbours could whip you. Daddy felt that this cultural tradition stifled his relationship with his father, yet fostered the bond with his mother, who sought to hide his misbehavior from his father, and thus spare the switch.

My father did not use corporal punishment on his children and alas broke this cruel cycle. He fundamentally validated my personhood and believed firmly that I had the right to be respected, even as a young girl. How did Adolphus Johnson come to know this kind of love? Despite his mother’s obvious love and dedication to her children, her selflessness and personal sacrifices, she was stern in her love. My father was himself affectionate and gentle with his daughter in a way that men of his generation, would not have experienced as a child growing up.

Daddy and young Christie, circa 1984

I like to think that parents prepare their children for the world that they will encounter. For African American parents, to this day, there remains a sternness in parenting, out of necessity. This is because Black children have to be fortified to survive the realities of the world that awaits them. As we know, #black_lives_matter reflects the harsh reality that this remains tragically relevant today. However, as a father, Adolphus Johnson, for his second child was given the opportunity, treasuring his opportunity, to be a hands-on father. My father chose to play with me at the playground, to attend every award ceremony, to chaperone every school trip, to talk with me about trivialities, such as the latest hip hop music trends. We’d sit in the car for hours, sometimes parked outside neighbouring Woodlawn cemetery where it was very quiet and still, while we listened to the radio together. I’d read my books and he’d read his. In the evenings we’d discuss my school learnings at a level of sophistication that a child of my age would not have normally have had access to. Providing historical, philosophical, and African-American context to every subject I learned at school. Unfortunately, parenting extended to the wee hours of the night, where Adolphus Johnson would retrieve his daughter from awkward social situations, where she shouldn’t have been, in the middle of the night. Available, accessible 24 hours a day up until his death. How empowering this was to have my daddy inform my development as a young woman, and as a wife, mother and as an academic.

In late 2015, I moved to New Zealand to pursue my PhD studies with my own family in tow, my husband and my young son. Daddy remarked to me over the phone, my first year there, that although he deeply missed me, he was also happy that I was safe. He felt the world had become increasingly unstable, even in Germany where my husband and I had previously been residing, but most especially in the USA. He enjoyed hearing about and celebrating with me my successes — often intervening to ensure that I was successful. Thus, in my postgraduate pursuits, first at Yale University and now at Massey University, my father was happy to hear about some obscure academic study that I would be working on or hearing about some abstract theory that I was reading — which certainly must’ve been dull for him. However, he enjoyed hearing about them because they informed my passions. Adolphus Johnson strove to make sense out of highly complex concepts, that were in fields far beyond his training. Yet he was always able to surmise the basic truth of any abstract concept. In this way, he would have said “what they [peer reviewed authors] are saying, is that all humans want to be treated with dignity.” That might be his response to a high level, jargon filled peer reviewed article exploring some cutting edge sociological concept.

This talent of Adolphus Johnson: it’s truly that. Very few people have the lived experience and the intellectual capacity to make sense of complexity. It is something that I as an academic try and strive towards in my own research. Daddy gave me a powerful tool. He encouraged me to make my life my own, to pursue philosophy. And he was a role model for how to use that knowledge and privilege for the benefit of vulnerable communities. Most key, he gave me the MEANS to translate western knowledge into colloquial and accessible forms, so that people who didn’t have the opportunity to pursue postgraduate work, would be able to make sense out of what they needed to know. This writing skill, my beloved father passed on to me.

The way in which Adolphus Johnson treated everyone with dignity and respect was almost saintly. And was something to behold.

Adolphus Johnson’s hobbies, as I have emphasized, are as significant a part of his story, as his official record. My father was a man beyond his station. That is, a man who dared to love and dedicate his life to poetry, classical music, and jazz. Chess and astrophysics were passions he chose to pursue and cultivate. My father was a man of reason. He brought with him his passion for the arts and philosophy into everything he did and every interaction he had. This was not lost on his clientele, the homeless men and women who loved him so dearly, which I witnessed first hand. He treated folks as they were, as human beings, intellectual minded and as thoughtful people. Because deep down he understood that there were always two parts to every person. The way in which Adolphus Johnson treated everyone with dignity and respect was almost saintly. And was something to behold.

I often share these anecdotes with others, to help me best articulate my father’s character. Trivia: the Kingsbridge Armory, the retrofitted homeless shelter in the Bronx, was the same one where KRS-One was discovered, when he was a homeless youth, by social worker DJ Scott LaRock. My dad worked there then, but wouldn’t have had a clue about the music emerging of the youth of his era.

I remember my father, mother and I eating at McDonald’s while I was still in high school, around 1994. There was a homeless Black man with matted hair standing at the garbage receptacle, asking everyone who finished eating, if he could eat their leftovers before they threw them away. He smelled very bad. And his looks seemed to frighten the other patrons and they rushed away from him as quick as they could. No eye contact and people grabbed their young children. Suddenly this man looks up and beams a smile in our direction. “Mr Johnson!” he says smiling. My daddy turns and responds to him cheerfully. Something like, “Hey, my man!” I was mortified at the time. Half the homeless people of the Bronx seemed to know — and love, love my dad. Some looked to him as a father figure.

In a separate tale, I like to share this memory my father told me. Some thugs had tried to rob him once — and the immigrant owner of the Bodega ran out with a Butcher knife — to protect him. This is the shop where my dad got his coffee. “That’s Mr. Johnson!” He screamed out to the would-be robbers. My dad was shaken but safe.

The moral of these stories are thusly; Adolphus Johnson was a man of remarkable openheartedness. I was blessed to have had a living example available to me every day of how to be a generous human. How to see inside the person, rather than their circumstances. This is my daddy. By these stories, I hope you can come to understand why I served him so dutifully as a daughter. I viewed him always as a prince, a king, come to us in His most humble form.

Adolphus Johnson was a philosopher and intellectual. Despite what his academic achievements suggest. My father was driven to pursue answers to the ‘big questions’ of life. Secular notions of the universe, underlied by mathematical principles, fascinated him. It is no wonder that his favourite fiction writer was Sir. Arthur Doyle, author of “The Sherlock Holmes” mysteries. Sherlock was driven by reason. One could say my father was a very reasonable man. Yet one could also say my father was concerned with the metaphysical and intrinsic. My father would recite sonnets verbatim. These were the kind of thoughts that occupied his mind. His mind was full of poetry and prose of the best literary minds the world has ever known. And if you were lucky, you had the opportunity to learn from him and broaden your own perspective. That is what it was to know my father. Close mindedness and ignorance would not be tolerated. But rather than resorting to authoritarianism, my father’s act of rebellion, was simply to be himself. And this was captivating to all those in his presence. One simply could not reconcile the caricatured image of the Black man in America, and in particular, the idea of masculinity — with the reality of the man who was my father. He influenced young men, like geneticist C. Brandon Ogbunu with the renewed confidence to forge their own path. Thus, my father was important. He made a difference in the world.

The grandchildren

Adolphus Johnson has three grandchildren who survive him. They are remarkably similar to their grandfather — and have been evaluated as ‘gifted’ by psychologists and educators. Alas, he was able to pass on some of his genetic blessings to his children. Adolphus Johnson suffered so many health issues in his later years, but seeing or hearing about his grandchildren always brought a smile to his face, and a moments reprieve from his ailments and disabilities. He was proud to observe his children and grandchildren adopt some of his values, such as a passion for the arts and a general compunction for academic success. Rza, my son, is likewise so very proud to continue his granddaddy’s musical legacy, as a budding musician now performing his piano, guitar, and drum for audiences in New Zealand. Ahlam, my niece, likewise eagerly pursues mastering the piano, like her grandpa before her. All the grandchildren found their own pathway to chess.

Death

Adolphus Johnson died at the age of 88 in the year 2021. My mother Phellie laments, “he was taken away too soon, from me!” His death was marked by the 2020–2021 Covid-19 pandemic. Firstly, my mother cared for him alone during the quarantine, fearing exposure to the virus. And later requiring the assistance of my brother David to bring him to dialysis thrice weekly. Although in previous years, my father had received the best care that the hospitals could offer, on his final trip to the hospital, there were no beds available. And so daddy remained alone, suffering end-stage renal disease and acute seizures in the emergency room for four days. Thereafter, he was relocated to another hospital, across the city. Despite this, there were no availabilities in the ICU for my father. Due to Covid-19, there was no visitation allowed during these first four days. And this was most distressing to his family, as my father was never left alone in a hospital or subacute setting. His wife or daughter or son would visit him and stay with him around the clock, so that he was not alone, well past normal visiting hours. But this time when he needed his family most, their availability to him was very limited. High COVID-19 deaths overwhelmed the hospital morgue and required his family to pursue hasty burial preparations. The Wakefield neighbourhood where my parents reside is one of the two areas impacted hardest by Covid-19 in NYC. One small reprieve I was granted, was that I was able to fly home from New Zealand and be with my father at the end, hold his hand, and reaffirm my love to him over and over. I was able to hold him in my arms long after he passed on, and for this I am very grateful.

In honouring Adolphus Johnson’s life, we his survivors have chosen to create the Adolphus Johnson scholarship for students at Fisk University, his alma mater. The scholarship will offer financial assistance to students who chose to pursue their passions in music, literature and social work. Even to this day, so very few African-American students have the financial means to support and nurture a liberal arts degree, when financial realities are so stark for our community. This scholarship is supported in part by my father’s brother Dr. Tobe Johnson, Jr., formerly the Department Chair of Political Science at Morehouse University, and lauded by President Obama, during his presidential tenure for my uncle’s service to the upliftment of young Black men. Those interested in supporting this worthwhile cause, may donate to the Adolphus Johnson Annual Scholarship Fund.

Memorial Services

he will be laid alongside musical pioneers Duke Ellington, Miles, and Max Roach at the cemetery’s “Jazz Corner.

Adolphus Johnson chose as his final resting place, the Woodlawn Cemetery. His wish is to be reunited with his wife after her passing, beside him. He remarked proudly, that he will be laid alongside musical pioneers Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and Max Roach at the cemetery’s “Jazz Corner.”

Adolphus Johnson’s jazz recordings will be played during his Wake for his guests entertainment. His music is available on Soundcloud and various music streaming services with all proceeds from sales going towards the Adolphus Johnson Scholarship for Fisk University students.

To commemorate his life and achievements, Adolphus Johnson will receive full military salute and live serenade by The Goodman Jazz Trio Band at his home-going services.

Adolphus Johnson performing for friends at his 80th Birthday Celebration