Annual commemoration of Pvt. Johnson May 4 at his namesake beach

Annual commemoration of Pvt. Johnson May 4 at his namesake beach
Memorial illustrates inequities of public beach access to people of color

The annual Rosamond Johnson Beach Day ceremony will take place on Saturday, May 4 at 10 a.m. on Perdido Key at Johnson Beach, the part of the Gulf Islands National Seashore named for Private Johnson. Co-sponsored by the Perdido Key Chamber of Commerce, the commemoration and wreath laying ceremony at the Johnson monument will honor and remember the life of the first Escambia County resident killed in action during the Korean War.
The event is open to the public and will include the NATTC Color Guard, a bugler and members of the Johnson family. Capt. Pat Everly, USN (Ret.), will be the keynote speaker. There is an entrance fee waiver to Johnson Beach from 8 a.m. until noon.
The ceremony, co-sponsored by the Johnson Beach Society and the Florida Black Chamber of Commerce, will conclude with a wreath lying ceremony at the Johnson monument.
Rosamond Johnson enlisted in the U.S. Army at 15, and died in combat two years later on the Korean Peninsula. While engaged with the enemy, on July 26, 1950, Private Johnson carried two wounded soldiers to safety. He was fatally wounded while attempting to save a third wounded man. On August 21, 1950, Rosamond was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart for the wounds he sustained while saving his fellow soldiers.
When Private Johnson died in 1950, Pensacola beaches were racially segregated, with areas of Perdido Key regulated for African-Americans. The Sunset Riding Club, which leased the land, declared the beach Rosamond Johnson Beach.
The area became protected as part of Gulf Islands National Seashore in 1971. The name was eventually retained and a monument and wayside honor to Private Johnson and his service to the United States of America was placed near the Johnson Beach Pavilion.
Johnson Beach is located within the Perdido Key Area of Gulf Islands National Seashore. It is open daily from dawn ‘til dusk. There is normally an entrance fee for this area.