African American History Month is a time for us to celebrate the achievements of black Americans for their role in shaping the past and future of our nation. From famous leaders such as Frederick Douglass, to early philanthropists such as Madam C. J. Walker, our history is rich with stories of impactful changemakers.
Here in San Diego, that is no different. Our region’s diversity is what makes us unique, and the individual impact of our changemakers help grow a vibrant region. William T. Johnson is one of those changemakers.
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“Peasy” Johnson, San Diego Philanthropist
William, also known as “Peasy” among his friends and family, was born in 1920 and raised in Newport, Rhode Island. From an early age, his ambition and drive were visibly apparent.
When you speak to him, Peasy likes to share the story of two little boys who were walking to school and realized they were going to be late. The first boy said, “I am going to pray that we get to school on time.” The other boy responded, “I’m going to pray and run!” This belief in the power of asking for help but also believing in the empowerment of helping yourself, is reflected in his life choices.
Peasy knew that if he wanted something, he had to work for it.
As a child, he invented all kinds of profitable lines of work, from making and selling kites, to sorting junk at ten cents per hour, to helping his grandfather clean the church on Saturdays. He learned to be assertive, ambitious, creative and to continually develop his mind.
When he was older, he served in the Navy in World War II and made San Diego his home in 1945. It was here in San Diego that he established roots, enrolling at San Diego City College and graduating with honors and an Associate’s Degree in Accounting.
Throughout his life, Peasy dedicated himself to his profession and to his community. He worked at the U.S. Post Office for 25 years and volunteered helping blind San Diegans for 20 years at the Blind Community Center.
Peasy’s life experiences taught him to be assertive, ambitious, creative and caring. He valued the importance of working hard and giving back.
William “Peasy” Johnson Scholarship
My hope is that by providing college scholarships, particularly to underserved students at Lincoln High School, I can inspire attendance, graduation, and academic performance among local youth.”
Even after he retired, Peasy wanted to continue helping the community in any way he could. He recognized what the combination of hard work and opportunity did for him as a youth, and he knew he wanted to do the same for other young San Diegans.
So at the age of 94, he established the William “Peasy” Johnson Scholarship to support the academic pursuits of future generations.
“My hope is that by providing college scholarships, particularly to underserved students at Lincoln High School, I can inspire attendance, graduation, and academic performance among local youth,” explained Peasy.
The William “Peasy” Johnson Scholarship was established as an endowment to maximize the impact of his philanthropy. As a result, every year, students are able to pursue their academic dreams as Peasy scholarship recipients.
This African American History Month, we celebrate Peasy for his efforts to help San Diego youth attain their higher education goals. With community leaders like him, San Diego is a place where all generations have the opportunity to thrive.
Join Peasy by establishing a scholarships fund in your name to create more opportunities for San Diego youth.
William “Peasy” Johnson passed away in November 2017, but his impact will live on through the scholarship endowment he established at The San Diego Foundation.