Name: Fidelia A. Johnson
Fidelia Adams Johnson spent most of her life developing and finding new ways to improve teacher education in Louisiana. Better known as “Mama Fi” to her students and the community, Johnson was the daughter of Charles P. Adams, the founder of what would become Grambling State University.
Johnson graduated as valedictorian from high school and received a B.S. degree from Tuskegee University in 1929. She later earned an M.A. degree from the State University of Iowa and did further study at Antioch College in Ohio and Michigan State University.
At Tuskegee, she played basketball for four years, which eventually led to her being inducted into the Tuskegee Athletic Hall of Fame in 1974.
At Grambling College, Johnson dedicated a lot of her time coaching the girls’ basketball team as well as serving as dean of women. She also served as head of the Home Economics Department and director of food services.
Before and after her retirement in 1970, Johnson she continued to meet the needs of Grambling students, striving to create opportunities for them. One of those opportunities she created included establishing programs that helped students acquire jobs after graduation.
Not only did Johnson work hard for her students, she herself was a hardworking woman. Outside of her many achievements at Grambling, she was active in the American Home Economics Association, and the Louisiana Education and Teachers' associations.
In addition to being involved with campus activities and organizations, she was active in the community. She was a member of the Grambling League of Voters, Church Women United, and the Catholic Circle of St. Benedict the Black Catholic Church. She allowed the Girl Scouts to establish a camp on her land. She also served as adviser to Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., while still working and in retirement.
Johnson was selected for inclusion in Radcliff College’s “Women of Courage” Black Women Oral History Project. The project, conducted from 1976 to 1981, included interviews with 72 African American women chosen because they were recognized as having made significant contributions to American society during the first half of the 20th century. Johnson was lauded for her contributions to education.
In 1982, she was inducted into the Grambling State University Hall of Fame.
Johnson’s dedication to the Home Economics Department at Grambling was acknowledged when her name was added to the building where the department was located. It became Washington-Johnson Complex.
She died May 14, 1996, at the age of 91. She was awarded a previously planned honorary doctor of laws degree at GSU’s commencement ceremony held on May 19, 1996.
Sources: https://hollisarchives.lib.harvard.edu/repositories/8/archival_objects/2485354; https://www.flickr.com/photos/schlesinger_library/13270057415; and “On the Shoulders of our Ancestors: African American History Through Historical Poetic Verse” by Jimmy McJamerson, Ph.D. (2020)