In Memoriam: Charles Johnson, 1927-2021

Charles Johnson, professor emeritus of medicine at Duke University died on December 14. He was 94 years old.

Dr. Johnson joined Duke in 1970 as the first Black faculty member in the School of Medicine and the first Black physician on the faculty of Duke University. He served on the faculty of the School of Medicine for 26 years until his retirement in 1996.

A native of Acmar, Alabama, Dr. Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree in physics from Howard University in Washington, D.C. During that time, he also served in the U.S. Air Force, rising to the ranks of captain and serving as a fighter pilot. He entered medical school at Howard University in 1959, graduating in 1963. He spent the last two years of medical school at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, Bethesda Naval Hospital, and the National Institutes of Health.

After starting a practice in Durham, North Carolina, Dr. Johnson was appointed assistant professor of medicine in the Duke University School of Medicine in 1970 and moved his practice to the Private Diagnostic Clinic. In 1974, he was promoted to associate professor of medicine with tenure, and in 1995 Dr. Johnson was promoted to full professor. Dr. Johnson also served as president of the 16,000-member National Medical Association.

“Dr. Johnson’s influence and impact on Duke University and in particular the School of Medicine and Duke University Health System cannot be overestimated,” said Mary E. Klotman, Dean of the Duke University School of Medicine. “He is an institutional treasure, and we will miss him and his wisdom, kindness, and tenacity. And while we can see and feel the bearing of his legacy, we know that together we must continue our work, sharing Dr. Johnson’s vision for greater justice, diversity, and inclusion across our institution and beyond.”

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