Fred L. Johnson III, Ph.D.
For native Virginian, Dr. Fred L. Johnson III, the May 25, 2020 murder of George Floyd; the January 6, 2021 Washington, D.C. insurrection; and the grossly latent revelations (for so many Americans) about the June 1921 Tulsa Race Riot exemplified trends within America’s republican -democracy which were simultaneously dangerous and disturbing but not surprising.
Those trends were grim reminders of the hostile realities Fred confronted when, after spending half his childhood at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, his father, a twenty-year Air Force veteran, was transferred to Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George’s County, Maryland (just outside of Washington D.C.). A slave state before and during the Civil War, Maryland had done its part in resisting the hoped-for progress of the Civil Rights Movement. By the time Fred Johnson arrived in the state, African Americans still struggled to fully exercise their rights as first-class citizens.
Witnessing for himself the lethal legacy of Jim Crow segregation and its enabling violence (as had been described to him by his Montgomery, Alabama raised parents), Fred began searching America’s historical record for insights explaining how and why so many had de-prioritized the aspirational vision of “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal,” articulated in the Declaration of Independence. He likewise sought to understand what had moved so many of his fellow Americans, North and South, to tolerate or embrace, the toxic perspectives of leaders like Alabama Governor George Wallace who in his January 14, 1963 inauguration speech declared, “Segregation now. Segregation tomorrow. And segregation forever.”
The quest to identify the factors and influences that kept causing the world’s greatest multiracial, multi-ethnic, multi-religious, pluralistic democracy to repeatedly fall short of its own stated ideals and values relative to freedom, liberty, opportunity, and justice, motivated Fred to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in History & Teacher Education at Bowie State College (now University) in Bowie, Maryland.
Viewing military service as his generation’s obligation to renew the legacy of African Americans who’d overcome staunch resistance to win and legitimize for blacks the right to full-citizenship by fighting in conflicts from the American Revolution, to the Civil War, up to and past Vietnam, Fred continued searching America’s historical record while serving as an officer in the United States Marine Corps.
Subsequent to his service in the Marine Corps, Fred worked as a Production Scheduler for Packard-Electric Division of General Motors in Warren, Ohio, an Operations Specialist for Continental Page Telecommunications in Fairfax, Virginia, and as a Corporate Trainer for Goodyear Aerospace Corporation (now Aircraft Braking Systems) in Akron, Ohio. He earned his Masters and Doctorate degrees at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio and in 2015, while teaching full-time at Hope College in Holland, Michigan, Fred graduated from nearby Western Theological Seminary, earning his Masters of Divinity degree.
While doing research in Europe, Africa, Asia, and South America, Fred conducted comparative governmental analyses of various nations on those continents with the American model, concluding that while not a perfect union the United States nevertheless presents an attractive but inherently fragile example of a republican-democracy.
Using his lifetime of experience, observation, and education, Fred has sought to ensure that the students he’s been privileged to instruct at Hope College are fully informed about the precious gift of their democracy and the necessity of protecting it from foreign and domestic threats.
While at Hope College, Fred has earned numerous awards including the Hope College Favorite Professor Award (2002 & 2013), the Hope Outstanding Professor Educator [H.O.P.E] award (2005), and the Ruth and John Reed Faculty Achievement Award (2013). In 2008 and 2010, he ran for the United States House of Representatives as the Democratic nominee for Michigan’s Second Congressional District. An enthusiastic participant in the international Toastmasters organization, he’s advanced eight times to the semifinals of the annual Toastmasters World Series of Public Speaking competition, taking second place in 2017 and 2018.
Along with numerous book reviews and public presentations at locations like Aquinas College, Calvin College, Grand Valley State University, Northwestern College, and Erie Insurance [in Erie, Pa.], Fred has authored three novels: Bittersweet [2002, Random House], A Man Finds His Way [2003, Random House], and Other Men’s Wives [2005, Random House]. He co-authored Tupac Shakur: The Life and Times of an American Icon [2010, Thunders Mouth Press] and he’s completing the first draft of Schmuck: A Political Awakening, a memoir recounting his experiences and the lessons he learned on the campaign trail. Fred has also submitted a proposal to Louisiana State University Press for the publication of his dissertation which is being revised into the book, Robert E. Lee’s Priority Target: the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.
A community-leader whose contributions have included serving as a one of two elected faculty representatives on the Hope College Board of Trustees, a board member for Disability Services Network, the Holland Historical Trust [i.e., the Holland Museum], and the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance, Fred’s also currently serving as a board member for Habitat for Humanity Kent County, Michigan and Western Theological Seminary. On November 14, 2019, he was awarded the Medal of Honor by the Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution in recognition of his “Leadership, Trustworthiness, Service, and Patriotism”
The May 25, 2020 murder of George Floyd; the January 6, 2021 Washington, D.C. insurrection; and the grossly latent revelations (for so many Americans) about the June 1921 Tulsa Race Riot have reinforced for Fred the urgency to analyze, and seek resolution, to the problems and challenges that have persistently undermined, and occasionally imperiled, America’s continued progress toward becoming a more perfect and more unified United States of America.