WWII Veteran Missed Her College Graduation, Now for Her 99th Birthday She’ll Finally Get to Walk Across the Stage

For her 99th birthday, Elizabeth Barker Johnson was surprised with a party and an opportunity she has longed for since 1949. The World War II veteran found out she would finally be able to put on her cap and gown and walk across the stage at Winston-Salem State University’s graduation.

Johnson successfully completed her teaching at what was back then, Winston-Salem Teachers College, however she couldn’t find anyone to substitute for her at work and missed the graduation as a result.

She told the Winston-Salem Journal that she couldn’t believe the day had finally come to redeem a moment most grads look forward as they close the book on their college years.

“I just can’t believe this is happening. I really think I’m dreaming,” she said.

Johnson was able to attend WSSU thanks to the GI Bill. She made history as the first female to attend Winston-Salem on the bill when she returned home from WWII. There she was a part of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion of the Women’s Army Corps.

The battalion was the only all-Black female battalion stationed overseas during the war.

Her son, David Johnson, 60, was there to echo how amazing his mother is.

“She’s faced war, she’s faced racism along the way as the only Black school teacher in her area for a long time,” he told the journal. He continued, “She’s such a remarkable woman.”

Mrs. Johnson summed up the experience with two words that resonate with the class of 1949 and the class of 2019 — Go Rams!

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