A woman who finally had a chance at age 99 to walk through the college graduation line last year has died.
Elizabeth Barker Johnson, who walked across the stage during Winston-Salem State University's 2019 graduation ceremony, died Sunday in Catawba County at the age of 100.
"She is one of the most incredible people I have met during my time on the planet," Elwood Robinson, the chancellor of WSSU, said in a Facebook post. "Thank you for your service and your life! I will miss you! I am a better person because of meeting you!"
Johnson missed her graduation ceremony in 1949 because she had started a new teaching job after her college classes ended. When she finally had the chance to take part in a graduation ceremony, she received thunderous applause from those attending, and millions learned about her special day on national television.
For more than 70 years, Robinson said later, missing her 1949 graduation ceremony was one of Johnson's biggest regrets.
"We discovered her a couple years ago, and her story is remarkable," Robinson said on Sunday, noting Johnson's service with the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion in World War II.
According to the U.S. Army Center of Military History, the 6888th was the only Black women's unit to serve overseas during the war.
Sent to a warehouse in Birmingham, England, the unit undertook the gargantuan task of sorting millions of pieces of mail that had arrived for U.S. military personnel, some of it badly addressed ("Junior, U.S. Army") or maybe sent to one of 7,500 people named Robert Smith.
In 2018, Robinson said, Johnson was among five women from the battalion who went to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas to see the dedication of a monument honoring their unit.