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Celebrating The Legacy Of “Mother” Genevieve N. Johnson

Genevieve N. Johnson Each May, Zion Baptist Church celebrated the legacy of Genevieve N. Johnson for being an exemplary champion of seniors within the District of Columbia. She was revered as Genevieve “Mother” Johnson and made a life following her maternal instincts, first with her four children and then for more than forty years with aging men and women in the District of Columbia. She served as President of the Council of Senior Citizens of the Greater Washington Area, was the Founder and First President of the American War Mothers and President of the DC Chapter of the National Council of Senior Citizens.

When the Medicare Act was signed into law in 1965, by President Lyndon Baines Johnson, Mrs. Johnson was in the Oval Office to witness the culmination of her long tireless hours with many others lobbying Congress for the passage of this landmark legislation. Mrs. Johnson was one of the first seniors in the country to receive her Medicare Card and in 1995, she was invited to the White House by President William Jefferson Clinton to attend the ceremony commemorating the 30th Anniversary of the signing of the Medicare Act.

Mrs. Johnson served for many years on the Mayor’s Committee for the DC Office on Aging now known as the Department on Aging and Community Living. She was an eminent and omnipresent figure focused on senior welfare concerns. It was said by city officials that when it came to senior issues, “she had no peer”. She effectively lobbied and advised city officials on obtaining enhanced programs and services for seniors to include affordable housing, social security services, transportation assistance, and medical assistance. In addition, she helped establish the District of Columbia’s Senior Citizen Hall of Fame.

In 1975, Mrs. Johnson was named “Mother of the Year” by the American War Mothers Association for the District of Columbia and Mayor Walter Washington presented the award to her and proclaimed May 2, 1975 as “Genevieve N. Johnson Day” in Washington, D.C. During the Barry Administration, she initiated the Annual Senior Boat Ride, Senior Christmas Party, and The Senior Prayer Breakfast (Now Mayor’s Senior Luncheon) each year. A senior apartment building was built on Upshur Street, NW between 13th and 14th Streets that bore her name, ”Johnson Towers” until the building was purchased and the name changed.

In 1979, Zion Baptist Church purchased the Holy Family Ukrainian Catholic Parish located at 4817 Blagden Ave. N.W. across the street from the Church and renamed it the Family Life Center after plans to create a Senior Residential Center could not come to pass. In 1982, the Senior Day Care Program was formed to serve seniors in Wards 1 and 4 as well as members of Zion Baptist Church and was named by the DC Office on Aging “The Genevieve N. Johnson Senior Day Care Program” in recognition of her tireless efforts on behalf of seniors in the community. The Center remains in operation to this day and is a testament to her enduring legacy for caring about seniors.

On Genevieve N. Johnson Sunday, Mrs. Thelma Burless, the Executive Director of the Genevieve N. Johnson Senior Day Care Center, introduced the staff of the GNJ Center as well as a brief video on the Center’s program was showcased. In addition, official recognition letters were read by the Honorable Anita Bonds, At-Large DC Councilwoman who serves as the chair of the Committee on Housing and Executive Administration and chair on the Committee for Senior Affairs and Mrs. Jessica Smith, CEO of the DC Department on Aging and Community Living. Brother Reginald Watson, the grandson of Genevieve N. Johnson, represented the family in accepting these recognition letters as well as others from the Honorable Muriel Bowser, Mayor of the District of Columbia and the Honorable Janeese Lewis George, DC Ward Four Councilmember. The members of the Board of Directors of Zion Community Enterprise are to be commended for spearheading “Genevieve N. Johnson” Sunday, May 15, 2022 at Zion Baptist Church and pursuing their vision toward establishing the Genevieve N. Johnson Senior Residences for seniors seeking affordable housing in Ward Four.

Genevieve N. Johnson Day at Zion Baptist Church on Sunday, May 15th, 2022