We celebrate the life and memory of Mr. Benjamin "Buck" Johnson, retired ILA whose death occurred Saturday, July 11, 2020 at his residence.
Benjamin Johnson, a devoted husband, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather passed away peacefully at home on July 11, 2020. Benjamin Johnson, affectionally known as “Buck,” was born on August 20, 1934, in Savannah, Georgia to parents Rosa Lee Giles and Leroy Johnson Sr. He was the third of nine children.
Ben Johnson served in the U.S. Army as a vehicle mechanic in the 999th predominantly, African American Armored Field Artillery Battalion. Benjamin Johnson served as an army private in the Korean War. The Korean War was the first American war where desegregated units participated in the war. Fighting for freedom in another country when racism and segregation was still happening in the United States, was one of the most selfless, patriotic, and heroic deeds of an African American during these troubled times. During the Korean War, Private Benjamin Johnson and another solider were the only two surviving soldiers of a friendly fire bombing that killed all 14 other soldiers in his unit. His survival was chronicled in the January 22, 1953 issue of Jet Magazine. In another incident, Private Benjamin Johnson risked his own life by jumping in a Korean river and rescued a U.S. pilot that crashed in turbulent waters. For his heroic actions, Private Benjamin Johnson was awarded the U.S. Army Soldiers Medal, the highest honor for valor that a solider can receive not involved in direct conflict with the enemy. Additionally, he received a National Defense Service Medal, United Nations Service Medal, and Korean Service Medal with three bronze stars. After his discharge in 1956, Ben returned home, joined in the Civil Rights Movement, began working as an International Longshoremen(I.L.A.) at Local #1414 and married the love of his life, Betty Walker (Johnson).
Ben worked as longshoremen for 58 years. He was recognized as the longest African American dockworker on the Savannah Waterfront accumulating over 156,000 hours as a longshoreman. He was in the highest seniority group, the “A “card section, as a longshoreman. The youngest “A” Card header out of 300 “A” cards, and the last “A” card of local #1414 to retire. Ben served as a delegate at local #1414, a mentor to many young men and women at local #1414, helped many men develop their skills to become headers and leaders at I.L.A local #1414, and was willing to help anyone who was struggling and wanted a better way of life.
As Ben moved from active longshoremen to retired longshoreman in 2014, his children and his wife helped spotlight his rewards for all his life achievements. In August 2014, Savannah Mayor Edna Branch Jackson honored Benjamin Johnson as a hero and dedicated worker in the city of Savannah. In 2014, State Representative Mickey Stephens publicly commended Benjamin Johnson for his extraordinary, courageous, and dedicated service to the United States of America, State of Georgia, the International Longshoreman Association, and his community. In 2014, Secretary of State, now Governor Brian Kemp issued a proclamation naming Benjamin Johnson as an “Outstanding Georgia Citizen” and awarded him with a state medal for his dedicated service to his country, the state of Georgia, the International Longshoreman Association, and his community. Benjamin was honored with the “Ringing of the Bell” at the International Longshoreman Association Convention in Savannah, Georgia in 2016. In 2017, Ben Johnson was named “Hometown Hero” by WTOC, honored at an Atlanta Falcons Game in the Georgia Dome, and named Georgia’s Hometown Hero. Later that year at the state capital, Governor Nathan Deal honored Ben Johnson for his lifetime achievements as an “Outstanding Georgia Citizen.”
Ben’s greatest joy was spending time with and providing for his family, working as a longshoreman at I.L.A. #1414, strengthening his faith in God, and serving faithfully at Green Grove Missionary Baptist Church until his death. Ben married the love of his life Betty Walker (Johnson). Ben and Betty stayed together through thick and thin for over 58 years. He is survived by his devoted and loving wife, Betty Walker Johnson, one daughter Carolyn Johnson of Columbia, Maryland, four sons Benjamin Johnson (Sarah), of Oceanside California, Reverend Christopher Johnson (Cheman), Kelvin Johnson, and Marvin Johnson of Savannah, Georgia. Ben joins his guardian angels: one son Clarence Johnson (who died as an infant), mother Rosa Lee Giles (Brinson), Father Leroy Johnson, Stepfather Arthur Brinson, three brothers Leroy Johnson, Hozell (Fred) Jordan, and Joe Johnson and one sister Deloris Jordan. Those family members who are left to celebrate Ben’s life and rejoice in his transition to eternal life are 3 sisters: Clara Dean Cooper, Mary Scott, and Willie Mae McArthur of Savannah. 1 brother: Ozell Jordan (Daddy) of Midway, Georgia. 6 sisters-in-law, 3 brothers-in-law, 20 grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren, many nieces, nephews, and cousins. 2 special traveling family members Shirley Parker and Olivia Ray. 5 adopted family members Earlene Manor, Sandra Daniels, Brenda Robertson, Beverly Bowens, and Catherine Youmans.
Those who knew him best will miss his humor, caring nature, and adventurous spirit. We pray for receipt of his soul into the Lord’s kingdom.
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Visitation will be held 6-8 p.m. Friday, July 17, 2020 at Greengrove Baptist Church 628 E. Waldburg St. Savannah, GA
Graveside service will be held 12 noon Saturday, July 18, 2020 at Oak Grove Cemetery 52nd St. & Skidaway Rd. Savannah, GA
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