UNION — A retired bishop of the AME Zion Church and long-time civil rights activist will be the keynote speaker at this year’s Union County NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet.
The Freedom Fund Banquet will be held Saturday, May 11, at 6 p.m. at the Union Shrine Club on Lockhart Highway (S.C. 49). The keynote speaker will be Bishop Joseph Johnson, who served as the 85th bishop in the succession of bishops in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church from his consecration at the 44th quadrennial General Conference in 1992 until his retirement in 2004. At the time of his retirement, Johnson had served 12 years as bishop and 28 year as a pastor. Prior to his consecration as bishop, Johnson served as the pastor of four churches.
Also in 2004, Johnson was honored by Hood Theological Seminary with an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. Johnson also holds Bachelor of Arts degree from N.C. State University, Raleigh, N.C.; a Master of Divinity degree from Duke Divinity School of Duke University, Durham, N.C.; and a Doctor of Ministry degree from Candler School of Theology, Emory University, Atlanta, GA. He also undertook post-graduate studies at the Duke University Center for the Aged; the School of Pastoral Care, Bowman Gray Hospital in Winston-Salem, N.C.; the Urban Training Center in Chicago.
Prior to being called to the ministry, Johnson served 14 years and nine months as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C., and made over 100 parachute jumps.
Johnson’s career as a civil rights activist dates back to the 1960s in Southern Pines, N.C., where he served on a commission and successfully fought the closing of black schools and the dismissal of black principals and helped elect a black mayor. While serving as a minister in Salisbury, N.C., he recruited members to resurrect the local NAACP chapter and, as its president and with his wife, the Rev. Dr. Dorothy Sharpe Johnson, as secretary, the chapter grew to more than 500 members.
In the 1980s, Johnson, along with other ministers, was arrested in Washington, D.C., while protesting apartheid outside the South African embassy. While serving as a minister in Greensboro, N.C., Johnson was one of the leaders of a march against a resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan.
Johnson was one of the leaders and main speakers in the protests against the flying of the Confederate battle flag on state property in South Carolina. In September of 2003, Johnson worked with the NAACP in York County to approve Martin Luther King Day as an official county holiday.
A life member of the NAACP for more than 30 years, Johnson has preached Emancipation services in North Carolina, Florida, South Carolina, and at numerous Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. services.
Johnson also served as an assistant professor of Practical Ministry at Hood Theological Seminary for more than 10 years and has written several policy manuals, a Ministerial Studies Manual, and many articles on stewardship and evangelism. He is also the author of the book, “Biblical Preaching in Zion.” His doctoral dissertation was entitled “Developing An Intergenerational And Intentional Model Of Ministry With The Elderly In A Black Church.”
Until his retirement, Johnson, who was known as the education bishop, served as chairman of the Standards Committee, the Christian Education Board (Schools and Colleges division); the Theological Seminary Board, the Board of Trustees of Hood Theological Seminary, Salisbury, N.C.; and the Board of Trustees of Clinton Jr. College, Rock Hill, S.C. He worked with both schools to help them attain full accreditation and, in 2004, led the denomination in purchasing for the seminary a new and spacious multi-million dollar campus on I-85 in Salisbury, and for Clinton Jr. College, the construction of a multi-million dollar state of the art library/classroom complex.
In 2004, Johnson returned to the seminary as the Bishop in Residence, an Adjunct Professor in Practical Theology, and as Director of the Diploma Program.