HICKORY, N.C. — It's been 70 years since she finished her teaching degree at Winston-Salem State University, but Elizabeth Barker Johnson will finally walk across the stage at 99-years-old, the Winston-Salem Journal reports.
A World War II veteran, Johnson was celebrating her birthday among her loved ones when she was presented with a ruby-red cap and gown and an invitation to walk at WSSU’s graduation.
Back in August 1949, Johnson would have walked across the stage to collect her degree from the Winston-Salem Teachers College, but work got in the way.
“I couldn’t get anyone to substitute for me back then, so I had to miss my graduation. It was terrible,” said Johnson, who began working as a teacher in Virginia right out of college. “I just can’t believe this is happening. I really think I’m dreaming.”
Her son David Johnson said, “That’s going to be probably the highest honor of her life. The fact that she gets to graduate now, after all this time, is going to melt her heart. She deserves it.”
She was the first female to attend WSSU on the GI Bill when she returned home from WWII, where she had been part of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion of the Women’s Army Corps, the only all-black female battalion stationed overseas during the war.