John B. Johnson, Jr. Biography (1908-1972)
- African American
- physician, cardiologist
John B. Johnson, Jr. was one of the first African American physicians to assume a leadership position as department chairman of the Howard University Medical College. A pioneer in the diagnostic use of angiocardiography and cardiaccatheterization, he also was one of two African American physicians appointed to Georgetown University Hospital's staff in 1954 as part of a successful effort to offer District of Columbia physicians equal opportunity.
John Beauregard Johnson, Jr., was born in Bessemer, Alabama, on April 29, 1908. He was the eldest of three sons of John B., Sr., a postman, and his wife Leona Duff Johnson. After completing high school at Tuskegee Institute, Alabama, he attended Oberlin College in Ohio, and earned a letter in track as wellas his B.A. degree in 1931. From there, he went directly to medical school atWestern Reserve University in Cleveland and earned his M.D. there in 1935. After serving his internship at Cleveland City Hospital, he went to Howard University in 1936 as a laboratory assistant in physiology and spent his entirecareer in that institution. The following year he joined the Department of Medicine as an assistant and became an instructor in 1938.
When Johnson first joined Howard, its Dean, Numa P. G. Adams, was beginning to search for well-trained young physicians to staff the medical school's full-time clinical faculty. Adams selected Johnson as a promising potential candidate for leadership in the medical school, and sent him to the University ofRochester in 1939 for two years of postgraduate study in internal medicine. Johnson was given a General Education Board Fellowship. Upon returning to Howard, Johnson became director of Clinical Laboratories in 1941 and was made acting chair of the Department of Medicine from 1944 to 1949. During those years, Johnson spent one year at the Columbia University Division of Bellevue Hospital in New York under another General Education Board fellowship. In 1954, Johnson and another African American physician, Dr. R. Frank Jones , were appointed to the staff of Georgetown University Hospital. This marked a major breakthrough in the long campaign to secure parity of opportunity for minority physicians in the District of Columbia. At Howard, Johnson ended his career asthe director of its Division of Cardiology.
As a cardiologist, or specialist in the treatment of heart disease, Johnson was an early proponent of angiocardiography, which is a diagnostic procedure that X rays the heart and its vessels after an intravenous injection of dye has been administered. The resulting picture shows blockages and abnormalitiesin the circulatory system. He also pioneered the technique of cardiac catheterization , in which a catheter--a thin, flexible tube--is inserted into the heart itself through a major vein in the arm. Johnson employed this techniqueto obtain samples of blood in the heart, to discover its abnormalities, and to determine the pressure of the heart itself. In addition, the physician studied hypertension--high blood pressure--and its disproportionate effects on African Americans. Johnson excelled in his field and published 64 papersduring his career. One of these was awarded a citation from the journal Angiology Research for the Outstanding Publication of 1966.
As an educator, Johnson was described as an excellent teacher with infectiousenergy and enthusiasm whose lectures were both dramatic and exciting, as well as an individual who drove himself hard. He served on the board of directors of the American Heart Association from 1958 to 1961, and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal of the National Medical Association. Twice he received the Susan B. and Theodore Cummings Humanitarian Award of the American College of Cardiology, in 1964 and 1965. After his retirement, the Howard University College of Medicine voted unanimously to name a chair after him. Its incumbent has the title of John Beauregard Johnson Professor of Medicine. When Johnson died in Freedman's Hospital on December 16, 1972, after a cerebral hemorrhage, he was survived by his third wife, Audrey Ingram Johnson, a stepdaughter, Adrienne, and a daughter from his second marriage, Linda.