Hazel Johnson was the first African American woman to become a general in the U.S. Army. She was appointed the Chief of the Army Nurse Corps in 1979. Johnson held a doctorate in education administration from Catholic University (1978) and had honorary degrees from Morgan State University, Villanova University, and the University of Maryland.
Johnson first became interested in nursing while growing up on a farm in Westchester, Pennsylvania. Her career began when we she received her nursing degree from the Harlem Hospital in New York City, New York in 1950. She then attended Villanova University where she received her bachelor’s and soon afterwards joined the Army Nurse Corps in 1955.
Johnson served in Japan at a U.S. Army Evacuation Hospital. She served at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in 1960 where she was a staff and operating room nurse. Between 1963 and 1967, she was an operating room instructor and supervisor while on a tour of three different hospitals. Johnson reached the rank of major in 1967.
From 1969 to 1973, she helped develop new sterilizing methods for the Army’s Field Hospital Systems as a staff member of the Army Medical Research and Development Command. In 1974, Johnson was promoted to Colonel and appointed the director of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Nursing, an extension of the University of Maryland’s nursing school.
In 1978, Johnson was sent to South Korea where she was the chief of the department of nursing at the largest U.S. Army hospital in that country. In May 1979, she returned to Washington D.C. where she was appointed General. A military ceremony was held in her honor at the Pentagon, where U.S. Army Surgeon General Julius Richmond pinned on her the brigadier general star. Johnson was also sworn in as the sixteenth Chief of the Army Nurse Corps.
Hazel Johnson retired from the U.S. Army in 1984. In her post-Army career she has served as an advisor to a number of surgeons general. In 1997 Johnson was appointed adjunct professor of nursing at Georgetown University. She has also served in a similar capacity at the University of Maryland.
General Hazel Johnson passed away on August 5, 2011 in Washington, D.C.