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With the rising of the California sun on August 4, 2022, the sun radiating over the life of Reverend Harold C. Johnson, Sr. set as he peacefully departed this earthly realm to achieve his ultimate reward of everlasting life. A man of great renown, the impression Harold Johnson leaves as a family man, member of the San Francisco community, and as a spiritual thought leader is nothing short of indelible. His life was, indeed, one of a good and faithful husband, father, grandfather, brother, friend, and servant to those fortunate to be within his reach and scope of influence.
Harold Clyde Johnson, Sr. was born June 18, 1933 in Beloit, Wisconsin to Herron and Ethel (Gordon) Johnson who laid a solid foundation on which an exemplary life would be built. Harold was heavily influenced by the wisdom and guidance of his maternal grandfather James F. Gordon, and commenced his spiritual journey as he became of age in Beloit’s historic Emmanuel Baptist Church. A gregarious and athletic young man, Harold progressed through school along with his elder brother James and younger sister Jacqueline. Growing up in Beloit, Harold was surrounded by a substantial extension of the Ross Hill Family Descendants and enjoyed close relationships with first cousins who became more like brothers and sisters to him.
During his senior year at Beloit High School, Harold left Beloit for Marysville, California to proudly serve his country in the United States Air Force. His military service introduced him to the many countries, people, and cultures across Europe and North Africa. Harold’s 13-month tour of duty at the Nouasseur Air Base in Morocco placed him among ancient African cities where he admired the “people of a darker hue” and experienced different facets and expressions of religion and spirituality. With an open mind and great intellectual capacity, he amassed life-changing knowledge and insight that would greatly contribute to the profound philosopher and teacher he would later become.
After completing his tenure with the Air Force in 1955, Harold met Katie Mae Banks in San Francisco. Katie caught his eye and quickly captured his heart. Within just one month, Harold knew she was the one he wanted to spend his life with and asked her hand in marriage while on a picnic. The young couple married on August 2, 1955 at the house of Bishop U.S. King in Oakland, California. From this union came six children: Margo, Anthony, Bartholomew, Cornelius, Jaqueline and Harold, Jr.
Harold and Katie dutifully raised their family at 587 Waller Street in San Francisco with an emphasis on love for family, personal responsibility, hard work, and striving for excellence in all life’s endeavors. 587 Waller Street became much more than just the place where Harold and Katie lived and reared their children. The Johnson Family residence evolved into a haven for a multitude. To many members of the Ross Hill Family, 587 Waller Street was their gateway into California and even a home away from home. Harold’s enthusiasm for San Francisco motivated others in Beloit to travel to the west coast where he loved to show off his beloved big city. Summer visits to the Johnson Family residence were akin to a rite of passage to many of Harold’s younger cousins. He made it his business to introduce them to the excellence and rich heritage of ancient Africa and proclaim the same greatness within themselves.
The San Francisco community and friends of the Johnson children for decades to come, too, experienced the love, education, inspiration and transformation that emanated from the environment Harold and Katie cultivated. As only Harold and Katie could accomplish, 587 Waller Street became a place of sanctuary and refuge where one’s spirit, mind, and belly could be nourished.
Designated the “Mayor of Haight Street” by many San Franciscans, Harold was a staunch supporter of local business owners and, more notably, of the disadvantaged and those otherwise ignored by society. Like a modern-day Good Samaritan, Harold demonstrated that love for one’s neighbor called for more than mere emotion and feeling. His spiritual duty to his neighbor aligned with the theological shift from the Hebrew translation of neighbor as an associate or friend to neighbor being those we encounter in our everyday coming and going–regardless of familiarity, similarity, or residential proximity.
Harold cared about all and was gifted in making others believe they were loved and cared for. He showed tremendous and unconventional compassion for others by spending time with the less fortunate, talking with them, praying with them, and preaching the Gospel to them. He and Katie opened the Johnson Family residence at 587 Waller Street for Wednesday evening Bible studies to teach the same knowledge and insight that sustained them to members of their community. Harold would go on to earn a master’s degree in Theology and become an ordained minister and Pentecostal Reverend who preached the gospel far and wide, promoting a spiritual philosophy of love and understanding. He also held a special affinity for Third Baptist Church of San Francisco where his mother was a devoted member.
Having lived an exceptional life of 89 beautiful years, Harold is now reunited with his beloved wife Katie, parents Herron and Ethel Johnson, brother James H. Johnson, and his daughter Jacqueline Johnson. Harold is survived by his sister Jacqueline Ann Cox, daughter Margo, sons Anthony (Anya), Bartholomew (Martha), Cornelius (Rathany Ma), and Harold Jr., 10 grandchildren, 2 great-grandchildren, and a host of close relatives.
Like a mighty vessel crossing the ocean, Harold C. Johnson, Sr. leaves the waves of an extensive legacy in his wake. Although his earthly voyage is now complete, precious memories, rich laughter, and unmatched wisdom resound as bequests of comfort to those he loved and cherished.