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In Memory: Ella Mae Johnson

Ella Mae Johnson. Photo by Mark Duncan of the Associated Press.

When Ella Mae Johnson got her master’s degree in social work more than 80 years ago, she was not allowed to stay on the present-day Case Western Reserve University campus in Cleveland because she was black.

Johnson went on to have a long career in social work. She also got noticed by National Public Radio when at age 105 she braved the cold to attend President Obama’s Inauguration. The determined Johnson wore a stylish jacket and pearls under the sleeping bag her nurse covered her with.

 “My hope for him is my hope for the country,” she explained. “If he fails, the country fails. He knows, and he says, ‘Not me, but you. Not us, but all of us.’ ”

Johnson died March 22 at age 106, not long after finishing her soon-to-be-published memoir “It Is Well With My Soul: The Extraordinary Life Of A 106-Year-Old Woman.”

 To read and listen to the NPR stories about her click here. And also read this tribute to Johnson from Gwen Ifill from PBS Newshour.

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  1. This reminded me of the first African American Social Worker I had the opportunity to learn from – Lexington KY in the 60’s – Ms. Grace Coleman, where they have named a Program in her name to honor her!

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