As a boy, young Johnson attended the Brunswick County public schools, from which he passed to the State school at Petersburg now known as the Virginia Normal and Industrial Institute, where he spent three years. He did his regular preparatory and theological work at Howard University and special work at Howard and Frelinghuysen University.
Mr. Johnson married Miss Flornie Jenkins, daughter of George and Ella Jenkins. Of the six children born to them, two are living. They are Edward Thomas Johnson, Jr., and Claiborne Charles Johnson.
Rev. Mr. Johnson was converted at the tender age of nine and joined the Cedar Creek Baptist church. So practically all his life he has been active in church work of one sort or another. After leaving Petersburg he had to make his own way in school. Though the way was difficult, and many times he was hard pushed, he refused to be discouraged and went on with his work. He spent several years working and studying in order that he might prepare himself for the real work of life.
In 1895, he began his work as a teacher. He taught twelve years, six in the public schools and six in Harmoney Institute at Blackstone. Under his administration the school grew from an enrollment of half a dozen to a hundred and was finally taken over and made a State school. In 1900, he was called to preach and was licensed by the home church in 1903. He was ordained to the full work of the ministry in April 1917, by the New Bethel Baptist church of Washington. His first regular pastorate was the Dudley Baptist church of Martinsburg, W. Va., to which he went in 1917. Under his leadership a debt of $1472.00 dollars was discharged, a new $2,000 parsonage built and the membership doubled. In the fall of 1921, he resigned that work. In politics, Mr. Johnson is a republican. He belongs to the Masons and the St. Lukes. Next after the Bible, his favorite reading consists of theological and scientific works.
Mr. Johnson believes that the religious life of the race is crippled by too many churches, many of which have inadequate leaders. He is also impressed with the need of more independent business enterprises.
Mr. Johnson is not only an eloquent speaker, but a forceful writer as well. His booklet, "My Message to the People" is a strong clear call to right living which should have a wide reading. It deals with intimate but practical things in such a way as to make it very helpful.
History of the American Negro Index
West Virginia History Center