Feat: Vincent Bates
Written by: Barry P. Foley
Copyright © 12 Aug 2021
William Henry Johnson was born 1886 in Kansas City and moved with his parents to Tulsa in 19021.
As American involvement in WW1 become more evident, he read about the National Guard Unit in Harlem was seeking volunteers. He said goodbye to his Mom and Dad and boarded a train bound for New York City. He joined the 15th Regiment in Harlem and headed to France.
After the war, he returned to Tulsa and worked in his brother’s garage in Greenwood as a mechanic. In a few months, he married sweet Miss Sarah Norwood, who just graduated Booker T. Washington High School. Their daughter Fannie Mae was born in 1919.
The Johnson family’s future looked bright and they bought a simple home on Queen Street. On the 31st of May 1921, when word spread through Greenwood of a pending riot, he quickly put Sarah and little Fannie Mae on a night train to Kansas City to stay with his aunt until things cooled down.
No one knows the complete details of what happened that next day, but neighbors said he was shot by the mob while he was protecting his house. His body was never found. Until 100 years to the day, as remains were recovered during the excavation in Oaklawn Cemetery in Tulsa. DNA tests identified the remains belonged to one William Henry Johnson.
Grandpa, this is your Grandson Willie the 3rd.
Mama was born 8 months after the riot, a voice you’ve never heard.
Grandpa, all your family is gathered here today. 27 of us
My older sisters, Sarah and Josie, plus 14 great-grandkids
Grandpa, we’re looking at a sparking new white headstone, It reads
William Henry Johnson, Corporal U.S. Army, World War One.
And Grandpa, to your left, lies your beautiful wife, our grandma Sarah
She lived to the ripe old age of 92. My God, we all miss her
She never remarried and not a day went by, she didn’t tell us
What a hard working, wonderful husband and father you were
Spoken: Grandma didn’t want to talk to about Tulsa. But on her 90th Birthday
She started telling me all about life back there in Greenwood, sometimes she would just cry.
Oh, but how proud she was of that little house on Queen Street.
That little backyard garden and how you kept the lawn so neat
She also told us about the War & that you fought the Germans in France
And how proud you were that you served & how you loved French wine!
Grandpa, you’re finally back home, in Kansas City
So here today, we all say our blessings that you are finally at rest & at peace.
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