Dr. Charles Johnson, civil rights & community leader, dies at 83

Dr. Charles Johnson, of Meridian, died Wednesday.
Dr. Charles Johnson, of Meridian, died Wednesday.(WTOK)
Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 6:44 PM CST
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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - Community leader and civil rights icon, Dr. Charles Johnson, of Meridian, died Wednesday at age 83. He established and pastored Fitkins Memorial Church of the Nazarene since 1961.

Dr. Johnson came to Meridian and began his church and mission during a turbulent time of race relations. He was a big part of the civil rights movement and continued as a strong community leader as his health allowed. Johnson was a voice for change and a voice for peace throughout his ministry.

In an interview with News 11 about five years ago, Dr. Johnson recalled racial tensions were tough in his early days here. He noted how civil rights workers Michael Schwerner and Meridian’s James Chaney both helped him at his church.

Author Chet Bush wrote about Johnson in his book, Called to the Fire. He described Johnson as a key witness to take the stand in the trial famously called the ‘Mississippi Burning’ case and played an important role for the U.S. Department of Justice, “offering clarity to the event that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.”

Dr. Johnson founded the Meridian Action Committee, shared a platform with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, traveled to Philadelphia, Miss., with Dr. King in the wake of the murders of three civil right workers and led a march through Meridian following King’s assassination in 1968.

The city of Meridian celebrated Dr. Johnson in 2011, renaming the street where his church is located Dr. Charles Johnson Avenue.

News 11 will post funeral arrangements once they are available.

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