ROBERT BURK JOHNSON was born in New Jersey on March 9, 1904 to William B. and Kate Patterson Johnson. His father was a teacher in Camden's public school system. When the census was taken in 1910 the family resided at 751 Cherry Street. Also at home was older sister Kathryn and grandmother Rhoda Patterson. Robert Patterson and his daughter Roberta K. Patterson lived next door at 749 Cherry Street, as Roberta K. Patterson, then 22 years old, was also a Camden public school teacher, it is highly probable that the households were closely related.
By 1920 the Johnson family owned a home at 1161 Cooper Street in Camden's Second Ward. It is likely that his father may have taught at the nearby Powell Elementary School in North Camden, then an all-black school, a short walk from the Johnson home. Robert Burk Johnson graduated from Camden High School in 1920, from Lincoln University in 1924, and from the University of Pennsylvania Law School. He first practiced law in Philadelphia.
Kate Johnson and Rhoda Patterson both passed away in the 1920s, while William Johnson continued teaching in Camden's public schools. He remarried around 1928. His second wife, Eureka, was eighteen years his junior. Robert Burk Johnson was single and living at home with his father on Cooper Street at the time of the 1930 Census.
By this time Robert Burk Johnson was involved in city politics. He began as a Republican, aligned with David Baird Jr., and in 1931 was appointed by Mayor Roy R. Stewart to the Board of Education to complete the term of Malachi Cornish, who had died at the age of 70. In 1932 Johnson was reappointed to the Board of Education in 1932 to serve a three-year term. He would served two more terms, resigning from the Board at the completion of his third full term, in 1941.
Robert Burke Johnson split with Baird in 1935 when elections were held to change Camden's government from a City Council to a City Commission. By this time he was serving on the Camden Board of Education, and had his law office at 300 Broadway. He was still residing at 1161 Cooper Street when the 1936 New Jersey Bell Telephone Directory was compiled.
During the week of February 9th, Negro History Week was celebrated at the C.A. Bergen School at 419-421 Mount Vernon Street in South Camden. Robert Burke Johnson was the main speaker and the local Works Progress Administration orchestra was featured.
The 1947 Camden City Directory shows Robert Burk Johnson as residing at 829 Kaighn Avenue, which had formerly been the home and place of business of Charles W. Moore.
Although the High Schools and Junior High Schools had been integrated, Camden's elementary schools had always been segregated. After World War II, public opinion had changed to a sufficient extent that the move to integrate the elementary schools had gained impetus. In the first part of 1948, on behalf of the Legal Committee of the NAACP, Robert Burke Johnson came before the school board and insisted that "All segregation in the public schools of Camden be abolished". This process began at the beginning of the new school year, in September of 1948.
Robert Burk Johnson moved his law office to 1105 Federal Street during the 1950s. He was an assistant county prosecutor in the mid-1950s
Robert Burk Johnson was still living on Kaighn Avenue as late as the fall of 1970. When much of the 800 block of Kaighn Avenue was taken to make way for Interstate 676, Robert Burk Johnson moved to the Cooper Plaza Apartments in Pennsauken, where he was living in 1977.
Robert Burk Johnson passed away in September of 1981. Johnson Park, at 8th and Van Hook Streets in the Centerville section of Camden, is named in his memory.
|Camden Courier-Post - June 26, 1933|
RESCINDS BAN ON MARRIED WOMEN
The Camden Board of Education last night rescinded a 1932 ban against employment of married women employees.
action was taken upon recommendation of Robert
Burk Johnson, a member of the board. It relates to nurses, clerks and
other employees not under tenure of office. The board on July 14, 1932,
overrode the objection of Samuel E. Fulton, president, in adopting a
resolution against re-employment of married nurses, clerks and other
Johnson first asked the board to reconsider its action and when only two votes opposed the move, he asked that the order be rescinded. Frank T. Flinn and Martin A. McNulty cast negative votes in each poll. Fulton joined with Johnson, William S. Abbott, Meyer L. Sakin and Robert C. Perina in voting to revoke the ban.
Resignations of two teachers were accepted. They are Vernon W. Messick, of Woodrow Wilson Junior High School, and Miss Elizabeth M. Brooks, of Wilson elementary school. Retirement of Miss Sara E. White, of the Broadway School. was announced. The resignation and retirement are effective Friday ..
Albert Austermuhl, board secretary, reported that approximately $11,000 due in tuition fees from Pennsauken township, and $1000 from Woodlynne, have not been paid.
Perina, Johnson and Sakin were named by Fulton as a committee to draw an expression of sympathy to relatives of Miss Clara S. Burrough, late principal of Camden Senior High School.
|Camden Courier-Post - February 1, 1938|
Of EDUCATION SHIFTS 14 TEACHERS
The Camden Board Education last night approved transfers of 14 teachers, the appointment of two new instructors and the retirement on pension of two others.
The board then adjourned until 11.45 a. m. today and it was announced the 1938-39 board will be organized at noon when Commissioner Mary W. Kobus is expected to be re-elected president.
When the report of the teachers committee making recommendations for appointments, transfers and retirements was read it was approved by unanimous vote and without comment.
Following the meeting Carlton W. Rowand explained that most of the transfers were made to meet emergencies in teaching classes at Woodrow Wilson High School, where more than 1500 students will be enrolled for the second semester, be ginning today.
Rowand explained that enrollment at the Wilson school is the highest in its history, due to many students taking up English and commercial courses instead of entering Camden senior high school, which will have an enrollment of approximately 1540 students, the smallest in several years.
List of Transfers
Transfers affecting teachers in junior high schools are: Louis E. Feinstein from Hatch Junior High School to commercial business organization, Wilson High School; Frank E. Sias, from Cramer Junior High to physical education, Wilson High; Jessie W. McMurtrie from Cramer Junior High School, to physical education, Wilson High; Wilton D. Greenway, from Cramer Junior High School to mathematics, Camden High; Elizabeth Dickinson, from Bonsall; to English, Cramer Junior High; Mrs. Mildred C. Simmons, from English to mathematics, Cramer Junior High; Miss Celia Boudov, from Hatch Junior High to departmental geography, science, and penmanship, Liberty School; Mrs. Elizabeth R. Myers assigned to English, Hatch Junior High;
Thelma L. Little transferred from, Grade 5 to Cooperative Departmental; Dudley school.
The following elementary school transfers, also effective today, are:
Beatrice W. Beideman from Starr to Sharp school; Mrs. Esther S. Finberg from Cramer to Broadway school; Dorothy M. Lippincott from Parkside to Dudley school; Mrs. Alva T. Corson from Washington to Broadway school, and Mary G. Cathell from Washington to Dudley school.
Teachers whose retirement was approved are Carolina W. Taylor, Grade 2, Broadway school, and William M. Thayer, mathematics [Camden] senior high school. Both teachers had resigned and applied for their pensions, the report read.
Nathan Enten was appointed as physical education teacher in the Cramer school and Harry S. Manashil was appointed commercial teacher in Hatch school. Each will receive $1400, annually. The board also approved the appointment of Florence M. Dickinson as principal of Lincoln school at a salary of $2200 annually.
The assignment of Miss Grace Hankins as principal of Parkside school to succeed Miss Dickinson also was approved. Ethel Thegen was approved for appointment as assistant librarian at the Camden senior high school at a salary of $5.50 a day. All appointments are effective today.
To relieve overcrowded conditions among pupils the board approved the transfer of 7A and 7B classes from the Washington to the Cramer school.
The board vote to open a library in the Cramer school and Raymond G. Price, supervisor of building was instructed to provide, the necessary equipment.
A resolution of condolence upon the death of Ethel C. Wenderoth, for 19 years a teacher in the Broadway School was passed and secretary Albert Austermuhl was instructed to send a copy to members of the deceased teacher's family.
2 New Faces on Board
The board received and filed a letter from Mayor George E. Brunner in which he stated he had appointed Mrs. George W. Tash, Samuel T. French Jr. as new members and had re-appointed Robert Burk Johnson as a board member.
William B. Sullender, of the Tenth Ward, who was not re-appointed, was commended by the members for his services. E. George Aaron said he regretted the fact that Sullender was leaving as a member and wished him success. Others joined in this tribute.
Sullender in reply thanked the members for their co-operation during his term of office.
Camden Courier-Post * February 25, 1938
4th Street - Atlantic
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