MERIDIAN, Mississippi (WTOK) – Community leader and civil rights icon Dr Charles Johnson, of Meridian, died Wednesday at the age of 83. He has founded and directed the 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 large part of the civil rights movement and continued as a strong community leader as his health permitted. 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 that racial tensions were tough when he started out here. He noted how civil rights activists Michael Schwerner and James Chaney from Meridian both helped him in his church.
Author Chet Bush wrote about Johnson in his book Called to the Fire. He described Johnson as a key witness to appear in the trial known as the “Mississippi Burning” case and played an important role for the US Department of Justice, “providing clarity to the event that led to the Voting Rights Act 1965. “
Dr Johnson founded the Meridian Action Committee, shared a platform with Dr Martin Luther King, Jr, traveled to Philadelphia, Mississippi, with Dr King following the murders of three civil rights workers and led a march through Meridian after The King’s Assassination in 1968.
The town 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 as they become available.
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