When Henderson, N.C. native Johnny P. Johnson came to teach art here he thought Fredericksburg would just be a pit stop on the way to becoming a famous artist in New York City, and it could well have been.
That was 60 years ago.
He stayed because he fell in love with a young local woman named Jean Blackstock and married her in 1961. And because he fell in love with teaching, first at Walker-Grant when it was the city’s black high school, then at James Monroe when it fully integrated in 1968.
As the decades passed he became a beloved teacher, well known artist and a community activist. He also became a philanthropist, donating his prized and sought after works of art to various causes.
Germanna Community College’s Educational Foundation will honor Johnson as its Philanthropist of the Year at 6 p.m. on Nov. 20 at Stevenson’s Ridge in Spotsylvania. The event will be a fundraiser to support GCC’s Gladys P. Todd Academy named for another iconic Fredericksburg educator.
Johnson, an 83-year-old Spotsylvania County resident, earned his B.S. degree from Virginia State College and his masters of fine arts from Howard University, with additional study at the Corcoran School of Art.
In addition to teaching at Walker-Grant and JMHS, he has been an adjunct art professor at Germanna and at the University of Mary Washington. He retired from teaching in 1991 and became a full time artist.
“I’ve enjoyed creating and I have also enjoyed the response people have given the work,” he said Friday as he sat in his studio on Charles Street in downtown Fredericksburg.
“People say they like me and like my art but I think that when you’re taught the children of people they like the person their children like,” Johnson said modestly. “A lot of parents who bought my work probably were not pushed into buying it but their children, but liked the idea of having a painting of mine.”
The Germanna event is a fundraiser to support GCC’s Gladys P. Todd Academy early college program, which allows first generation, underserved students at James Monroe and Spotsylvania high schools to earn their associate’s degree free by the time they graduate from high school, then transfer to a university well on their way to a bachelor’s degree with no debt.
Johnson knew the late Gladys Todd well and said the Todd Academy shares its namesakes “attitude about sharing and giving and working to make things better for minorities and for people in general. Mom Todd did that until she was unable to because of age.”
Of the woman he called “Mom Todd,” he said: “Gladys Todd was a teacher in the school system in Fredericksburg, early on, before I came. She was just a beautiful, caring human being who wanted to help. I was very pleased this educational effort was made in her name. I’m hoping that people will support it.”
Johnson said he’s a little embarrassed by all the honors bestowed on him in recent years, adding, “I’ve done what I wanted to do in life, and that is to become an artist and an educator– a teacher.”
Tickets to the event are $100, with all proceeds going to support the Todd Academy, which was founded by a donation from Doris Buffett. She is 91 and retired from philanthropy and Germanna needs other sources of funding for the Academy.
For tickets or so sponsor, go to germanna.edu/donate and select “Distinguished Philanthropist of the Year.”
More information is available at
(540) 423 -9060 or email@example.com