General S. and Mary L. Johnson Collection
Scope and Contents
The General S. and Mary L. Johnson Collection is reflective of Mrs. Johnson’s life and career, spanning mostly through the 1920s to the 1970s. The papers include original writings, correspondence, biographical material, and newspaper clippings. Significant portions of the collection represent her time as a teacher and educator, showcase her editorial writings, and signify the Johnson’s involvement with the Antioch Baptist Church in Houston. Most of the content is limited to the Houston, Texas region. While the Johnson did live and operate a business in Los Angeles, California, there is not much in the collection to represent that time. Other items in the collection include photographs, some of which are annotated, and objects such as a paddle board from Phillis Wheatley High School, a swagger stick, and school ribbons from Mrs. Johnson’s time as a student at the Houston Colored High School in 1917.
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research. The paddle board is on permanent display at the African-American Library at the Gregory School. Due to preservation concerns, the school ribbon and swagger stick are not available to be accessed.
Conditions Governing Use
Permission to publish or reproduce materials from the General S. and Mary L. Johnson Collection must be obtained from the African American Library at the Gregory School or the appropriate copyright holder
Biographical / Historical
Mrs. Mary Lillian Jones Johnson was born to Joseph Albert and Mary Louisa Jones in 1899. Mrs. Johnson attended Gregory Elementary School and the Colored High School (later to be named Booker T. Washington High School) in Houston and graduated in 1917. She attended Prairie View University and in 1919 became the first woman to serve as Registrar for the school. She graduated from Prairie View in 1924 and began her career in the Houston Independent School District. As a teacher, she taught at Booker T. Washington High School, was a member of the first faculty to serve at the Jack Yates High School, then worked at Phillis Wheatley High School, and E.O. Smith Middle School. She also taught and eventually took classes at the Houston Colored Junior College, later to be named Texas Southern University.
Mary Johnson’s writing career began with the Texas Freeman, founded and edited by her uncle, C. N. Love. In 1972 she continued as newspaper columnist by writing for the Houston Informer and the Texas Freeman, which had purchased her uncle’s newspaper in 1931.
In 1935 she married General S. Johnson. Mr. Johnson served in World War I and was employed by the United States Postal Service for 30 years before retiring in 1945. In 1945, The Johnson’s moved to Los Angeles where Mr. Johnson started a business; Johnson’s Confectionary and Service Bureau. They kept ties to Houston and eventually moved back some time in the 1950s.
The Johnson’s were very active in the Antioch Baptist Church. Mr. Johnson was a long-term deacon and a soloist who sang in the church choir and other events. Mrs. Johnson was often a speaker and presenter as events hosted by the church.
Biographical Sketch of Mrs. Mary L. Jones Johnson, transcribed from her personal papers, located in Box 1, Folder 1:
1917 Graduated from Booker T. Washington High School 1917 Matriculated Prairie View College Student helper in Office of Treasurer 1918 Student helper in Office of Registrar Assisted Editor-in-Chief of College Journal 1919 Graduated from Prairie View College (Teachers Course) 1919 Appointed Assistant Registrar of Prairie View College; Assistant Secretary of Faculty; Assistant Editor of Journal 1920 Appointed Registrar of College; Secretary of Faculty and Editor-in-Chief of college journal; One of the ranking administrative officers 1924 Graduated with B.S. degree in Education from Prairie View College 1924 Elected teacher of History and English at Booker T. Washington High School 1926 Transferred to the new Jack Yates High School in the capacity of Head of Social Sciences Department; Teacher of Civics, Social Problems, American History, Negro History 1930 Appointed teacher of Social Science in the Houston Negro Municipal College; Teacher of the U.S. Constitution; U.S. History, Texas History, Negro History, History of Western Europe; Faculty Advisor of senior class, sponsor of patriotic programs and Negro History programs 1938 Transferred to the Phillis Wheatley High School; Teacher of Social Problems, American History, Civics 1945 Granted leave of absence from Houston school; Moved to Los Angles California 1945 Associated with husband (G.S. Johnson) in the operation of his business, Johnson’s Confectionary and Service Bureau, 3623 South Western Avenue, Los Angeles, California 1947 Returned to Houston, Texas and served four months in the Booker T. Washington High School as Teacher of American History. Granted an extended leave of absence. 1948 Associated with husband
I am a graduate student of the University of Southern California. I had the unique and unusual experience of being the youngest member of Prairie View faculty and first woman to hold the position of Registrar of the college, during which time I inaugurated a modern system of records and filing system. I am singular in being one of the few persons whose entire professional career is in the State College, the Houston Municipal College, and the three Senior High Schools of Houston, Texas. My first writing practice and experience was in the offices of C.N. Love (my uncle), founder and for forty years Editor of the Texas Freeman, Texas’ oldest newspaper, and one of the nation’s strongest advocates of civil and political emancipation. He was a forceful writer, a convincing and dynamic speaker, having styled himself a “self-made man.” He retired in 1931, selling his paper to the Houston Informer. He passed in 1946. Throughout my professional career I have had considerable experience in all types of writing – religious, secular, historical, political, and social. I have long been considered a versatile writer; simple, and elegant, having filled and covered assignments of varied description – eulogies, dissertations, school, church, and community activities. I am a lay speaker and long regarded as ready and resourceful – simple and fluent. Have had wide experience as mistress of ceremonies, program sponsor, committee worker and numerous other capacities. I served as Church Clerk and Editor of the church bulletin; Founder and for ten years’ faculty advisor of the Girls Resurge Club, School Counsellor on scholastic, curriculum and disciplinary problems.
3 Linear Feet (4 boxes)
Language of Materials
Series 1 Family History and Personal Papers
Folders are arranged by content type.
Series 2 Church and Religious Material Folders are dedicated specifically to Houston’s Antioch Baptist Church, then by Los Angeles regional religious institutions, and then an assortment of religious institutions in various regions.
Series 3 Education Career and Interest Arrangement is by school or higher education institution.
Series 4 U.S. and Texas Historical Information and Government Material Arrangement is by topic and/or format.
Series 5 News Clippings and Publications The newspaper clippings are foremost grouped by periodical, then subsequently by subject if the periodical could not be identified.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Mrs. Mary L. Johnson donated this collection in 1979.
Processed by Abra Schnur October 2017; Revised by Sheena Wilson December 2021
- African American churches -- Texas -- Houston Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- African American educators Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Dupree, Anna Johnson, 1891-1977
- Fourth Ward (Houston, Tex.) Subject Source: Local sources
- Houston Independent School District (Tex.) Subject Source: Lcnaf
- MSS 0129 General S. and Mary L. Johnson Papers
- An Inventory of Records at the African American Library at the Gregory School, Houston Public Library
- Abra Schnur
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Code for undetermined script
- Language of description note
- This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services Museum Grants for African American History and Culture (AAHC-FY21).
Part of the African American History Research Center Repository