Hazel Johnson was born in 1927 in West Chester, Pennsylvania. She was one of seven children. She grew up on her father’s farm in Chester County, near the town of Malvern. When she was twelve, she was inspired to become a nurse by a local white public health nurse. When Hazel W. Johnson-Brown tried to gain admission to a local hospital, she was told, “We’ve never had a black person in our program, and we never will.” Fortunately, despite the racial obstacles in her path, Johnson-Brown persevered and did become a nurse.
She studied at the Harlem Hospital School of Nursing, where she graduated in 1950. She then joined the army, working in Japan and later Korea during her service. In the 1960s, she also trained Vietnam-bound surgical nurses.
Johnson-Brown’s abilities in the operating theater led to her climbing the ranks in the army. She eventually became the first black woman to be promoted to Brigadier General and the first to head the 7,000-strong US Army Nurse Corps.
As well as her Harlem diploma, Johnson-Brown achieved a nursing bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and an educational administration PhD. And to top it all off, she was awarded a number of distinguished military decorations in addition to being named Army Nurse of the Year twice.
In addition, she was my Great Aunt and always promoted nursing whereever she went!! I met her several times.
There is information about her at the United States Army Women’s Museum located on Fort Lee, V. A.
Always remember our Nursing Heroes!!
Nicole M. Brown, RN (great-niece of Brigadier General Hazel Johnson-Brown)
P. S. Happy Birthday to my Aunt Hazel the General!!