Benjamin Scott Johnson was born April 1, 1928 in Perryman, Md. on the shores of the Susquehanna River. He was the son of James Arthur and Mayfield Peaco Johnson. He was the third of four siblings and was preceded in death by his brothers James and Garfield, and sister Olivia. Affectionately known as Ben, he accepted Christ at an early age at Union Memorial United Methodist Church (Swan Creek), his family church. He has returned to his home church almost every year since then for homecoming.
After graduating from Havre de Grace Colored School, he enlisted in the United States Army. He was deployed to the European Theater of Operations during World War II and was awarded the Army of Occupation Medal, the European African Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, and the World War II Victory Medal for his service.
He was honorably discharged from the Army in 1946 and then moved to Washington, D.C. While working during the day he attended Wilson Teacher’s College in the evening to further his education. While there he met his future wife, Jean Holston. They were married in the home of long-time family friend Clarice W. Philmore and recently celebrated 53 years of marriage.
Ben worked as a mechanic with the Federal Aviation Administration and developed a keen sense for business. He purchased a cab and began moonlighting as a cab driver. After his retirement from federal service in 1979, he purchased several additional cabs and along with his wife Jean started his own transportation company, B&J Transportation. One of his notable passengers was an old friend named Philip Lustine, who owned several car dealerships. Mr. Lustine made sure Ben always had tickets to Redskins games, even when these tickets were an extremely hot commodity. Due to his keen business sense and tenacity, he became known as the negotiator. When he walked into a dealership to purchase a new car, the salesmen knew they were in for a long day, and he always walked out with a great deal. The most famous cab in his fleet was a checkered cab that was used in the movie Broadcast News. The scene where the cab was used shows the movie’s stars Holly Hunter and William Hurt riding in the cab and you can see Ben’s shoulder.
He later expanded his business by selling the cabs and purchasing 12 mobility vans. He won a contract to transport disabled passengers throughout the Washington metropolitan area and built a reputation for timeliness and dependability. This led to B&J’s selection as one of the official transportation companies for the first inauguration of President Clinton. His support of President Clinton culminated in a trip to the grand opening of the presidential library in Little Rock, Ark. where he purchased bricks in his family’s name.
Ben was a father to everyone he met; opinionated and always full of advice. His love for his family, his friends, his community and his church were a part of his everyday life. He was a 50-plus year member of Israel Baptist Church, where he received many awards, highlighted by his selection as Father of the Year. He was beaming with pride and joy as he accepted this award, standing with his daughters and grandchildren.
Ben is survived by his wife Jean; daughters (from a previous marriage) Valerie Lee Fraling of Randallstown, Md. and Cheryl Johnson of Bel Air, Md.; four grandchildren, Keith Lee of Arlington, Va., Lisa Lee Packer (Greg) of Fairfax Station, Va., Michael Lee (Rebecca) of Owings Mills, Md., and Kevin Johnson (Angela) of Baltimore, Md.; 11 great grandchildren; and a host of other family and friends. He dedicated his life to hard work for man and the Lord and has now gone on to a well-deserved rest in heaven.
Services for Benjamin S. Johnson, father of AFRO columnist Valerie E. Fraling, begin 11 a.m., Jan. 31 with the viewing at Israel Baptist Church, 1251 Saratoga Avenue, NE, Washington, D.C. with the funeral following at noon. The entombment is immediately after at the Fort Lincoln Cemetery Community Mausoleum, 3401 Bladensburg Road, Brentwood, Md.