In Memoriam: Hazel W. Johnson-Brown

Posted: August 11, 2011 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: August 11, 2011 at 12:59 pm

By Charlene Douglas, associate professor, College of Health and Human Services, with some information provided by Villanova University’s College of Nursing.

Brig. Gen. Hazel W. Johnson-Brown. Photo courtesy of Villanova University

Brig. Gen. Hazel W. Johnson-Brown, Professor Emerita of Nursing, died on Aug. 5 in Wilmington, Del., after a long illness. She was 83.

Johnson-Brown was the first African American woman to hold the rank of general in the U.S. military services and was the first African American to hold the position of chief of the Army Nurse Corps.

She had a distinguished second career in academia at Mason teaching in the graduate nursing program, where she established and served as director of the Center for Health Policy. She joined Mason in 1989 and retired in 1996.

After earning her nursing diploma at Harlem Hospital School of Nursing, Johnson-Brown completed her BSN degree at Villanova University and earned a master’s degree from Teacher’s College at Columbia University and a doctorate in educational administration from Catholic University. She was awarded honorary doctorate degrees by Villanova University, the University of Maryland and Morgan State University.

Johnson-Brown’s Army career began in 1955, and for the first 12 years, she served in staff positions in hospitals across the country and abroad. She was twice named Army Nurse of the Year. Her early leadership positions included research and development for Army field hospitals, and she directed the Walter Reed Army Institute of Nursing, a program that awarded students a BSN conferred by the University of Maryland.

In 1978, she transferred to the Office of the Surgeon General, 8th Army Command, and was chief Army nurse in South Korea. Following her Korean tour in 1979, she was selected to be the 16th chief of the Army Nurse Corps.

Her military decorations included the Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Legion of Merit. She received the Distinguished Service Medal upon her retirement.

Following retirement from the Army, Johnson-Brown became director of the Division of Governmental Affairs at the American Nurses Association before joining Mason.

She also served on the Villanova University Board of Trustees and was awarded the Villanova College of Nursing Medallion for distinguished achievement. The College of Nursing at Villanova established the Hazel Johnson Leadership Award, which is given at convocation.

Johnson-Brown was a member of the Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the Sigma Theta Tau and Chi Eta Phi nursing sororities, the American Academy of Nursing and the American Nursing Association. She was a member of the Community Health Accreditation Program, which established national standards of excellence in home health, hospice and community-based health programs. She received the Gold Medallion from the Chapel of the Four Chaplains.

She is survived by her sister, Gloria Smith; two brothers, John and Clarence; and two nieces and one nephew. Donations in her memory may be given to Compassionate Care Hospice in Wilmington.

A memorial mass will be celebrated for Johnson-Brown on Tuesday, Aug. 16, at 11 a.m. at St. Clare of Assisi Catholic Church, 12409 Henderson Road, Clifton, Va. Burial will be at Arlington National Cemetery at a later date.

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