Celebrating Black History Month: The legacy of Robert M. Johnson

Emergency Black Medical Service for Seniors]

My father made history in Camden, SC and in Kershaw County in May of 1979 when he became the first Black Paramedic in the county. His accomplishments continued to make history by becoming the first Black Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Director of Kershaw County Medical Center in October of that year.

On his path of history, Robert Johnson never considered the many challenges he faced along the journey as problems, but instead he worked hard by attending continuing education courses and receiving extensive training as an EMT.

He constantly focused on educating himself to enhance his career and training, education is something he is very proud of and very important to him. His motivation is guided by his high morals and standards, as well as a strong work ethics. He has been teaching EMT classes since June 1975 at a variety of technical colleges, hospitals and work sites. Also, he provides guidance and consolation for a non-emergent transport service in Sumter, SC.

My father has a passion for helping others and thus explains why he has always set the bar high for himself and expects a high standard of others. I believe this is what continues to make him so successful in his profession. Currently, he’s a professor at Central Carolina Technical College in Sumter, SC and also an EMS Instructor when needed.

Robert Johnson has taught many times at RetireEASE for the caregiver staff alongside his daughter, Cynthia Johson-Lee, Care Services Manager at RetireEASE. Cynthia has followed her father’s journey very closely from a very young age. She recalls many times her father receiving emergency calls at home, and he would have to hurriedly gather his EMS gear and rush to the scene of an accident.

Cynthia thrived on the energy she saw from her father and often times rode along or drove him on these emergency calls. The thrill of the siren on top of the car and traveling at fast speed was truly exciting for Cynthia. She would be familiar with everything her father needed when he arrived at the scene, knowing time was a critical factor for all emergency situations. She would ask her father, “did we save her/him today”.

He would respond on most occasions, “yes”. Cynthia remembers times Mr. Johnson would tell her, “you must stay down and not be seen” due to the severity of some victims. Cynthia knew then she wanted to become a nurse or find a career in the healthcare industry. Cynthia learned CPR and First Aide at an early age and often times had to utilize her skills to help in many situations.

Cynthia has cared for seniors and the elderly as a teenager, worked in the community and volunteered as much as she could to make a difference in the lives of others. She too has demonstrated having the same passion of caring for others. Cynthia’s experience at a young age has made her successful today as the first Black manager at RetireEASE Senior Services. Cynthia joined RetireEASE in 2012 as a Staffing Coordinator and became a member of management in 2013.

Cynthia is currently the Care Services Manager with RetireEASE Senior Services and strives to excel like her father. With her father, Robert Johnson, continuously providing guidance in her life; Cynthia will achieve her goals.

As her father tells his students, “never settle for less.” He reminds her that when faced with a challenge at work or in community service, to think of leadership principles and work harder to accomplish your goals. Mr. Johson’s motto is; Put God first in all that you do, always strive for the best and never give up on your dreams.

My father has received many accolades during his career and still actively working. He tells me and my siblings that he is not finished yet. Robert Johnson has laid a strong EMS foundation here in the community for many former, current and future healthcare workers, but he always expects for others to continue to do more. He encourages his 3 daughters and students to strive for the best and never let excuses stop you from achieving your goals.

He constantly reminds us to always have faith and belief. As my father has proudly made a mark on Kershaw County’s history, I encourage each of us to not let our diversity keep us from unity or reach any goal we set out to achieve in life.