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Johnson Beach Day to Be Held May 1, 2021

Published Apr 20, 2021

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Lori Raisch
Perdido Key Chamber of Commerce                                                                             Lori@PerdidoChamber.com
O: 850.492.4660

Annual Remembrance Day Celebrates Life of Local Hero

The Perdido Key Chamber of Commerce and Gulf Islands National Seashore staff announced that the annual Rosamond Johnson Beach Day celebration will take place at Johnson Beach in the Gulf Islands National Seashore at 10 a.m., May 1, 2021. The annual event had to be canceled in 2020 due to Covid restrictions in place at that time.

At a recent planning meeting between the Perdido Key Area Chamber Foundation, The National Park Service, and Escambia County District 2, the history of the annual Rosamond Johnson Beach Day was discussed. Plans for a downsized 2021 event and the future of the event in years to come was solidified. “This is the right event for the right reasons,” said Darrell Echols, Superintendent, Acting, Gulf Islands National Seashore Chief, Science and Natural Resources Department Southeast Regional Office National Park Service. 

After enlisting in the US Army at 15, Johnson died in combat two years later on the Korean Peninsula. While engaged with the enemy, on July 26, 1950, Pvt. Johnson carried two wounded soldiers to safety. He was fatally wounded while attempting to save a third wounded man. On August 21, 1950, Rosamond was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart for wounds he sustained while saving his fellow soldiers.

Erin Wilmer, chair of the Chamber’s Military Affairs Council stated, “The story of the selfless bravery of Pvt. Johnson and the history of this beach is a story worthy of national attention and we hope to see the event grow exponentially over the years.”

At the time of Johnson’s death, Pensacola beaches were racially segregated. The Sunset Riding Club, Inc. leased a county owned recreational area in 1950 for the sole use of bathing and recreational facilities for “colored citizens.” In honor of his ultimate sacrifice, and in recognition as the first Escambia County resident to die in the Korean Conflict, the recreational area became known as Rosamond Johnson Beach. The area became part of Gulf Islands National Seashore in 1971, and the name was retained. Today, a monument and exhibit honor Private Johnson and his service.

For the past decade, the Perdido Key Chamber of Commerce has invited the Johnson Family, local and national dignitaries, and the public to the beach to honor the memory of this local hero. Perdido Key Chamber President Dana Pagador said, “Johnson Beach is an iconic treasure to Perdido Key’s residents and visitors. Sharing this story is solidly in the mission of the Chamber foundation.” 

In honor of the sacrifice paid by Army Pvt. Rosamond Johnson and his family, the National Park Service waives entrance fees to the Johnson Beach area from 9 a.m. to noon on the day of the annual commemoration ceremony which is held the same day at 10 a.m. at Johnson Beach. The national seashore was granted a fee waiver by the NPS Regional Director at the park’s request in 2019. Fee waivers may only be authorized by the NPS Regional Director, the Secretary of the Interior or the President. 

Johnson Beach is one of the most popular beach recreation areas of the Gulf Islands National Seashore and is open daily from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m., March 1 through Oct.1 and 5 a.m. to 6 p.m., Nov. 1 through Feb. 28. Escambia County District 2 Commissioner Doug Underhill emphasized the importance of providing access to the waterfront for all local residents. “Waiving the park entrance fees the morning of the event will help bridge the prosperity gap allowing lower income citizens to access the park and share in the rich history of Perdido.”

"All stakeholders agreed to enter into a general agreement to formalize the roles and responsibilities involved in planning and presenting the annual event in order to document and formalize the event roles and responsibilities, which was done with a handshake in the past,” said Underhill, who also pledged $1,000 of District 2 discretionary funds to offset the cost of producing the event.  A portion of the funds will be set aside to produce printed materials to inform visitors of the sacrifice made by Pvt. Johnson and to tell the story of the segregationist aspects of the history of the beach.

Chamber Board of Directors Chair Jim Beran praised the “positive and productive partnership that has been formed by all interested parties to insure that the event continues to educate beachgoers of the past as we look forward to a brighter future,” while pledging the continuing support of the Chamber staff and resources.

For more information on the event go to www.VisitPerdido.com.

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