Remembering the voice of Lincolnville

David Nolan contributed to this report.
Special to Historic City News

Carrie Johnson was called “the voice of Lincolnville” in part because her voice rang out loud and clear and she loved to sing, speak, and pray so all could hear. St Augustine’s most beloved citizen passed away at 7:00 a.m. this morning. She was 83 years old.

Those city residents who’ve known “Miss Carrie” appreciate her ready smile and wave, her elaborately decorated tricycles, her frequent blessings and Bible quotes, her impulse to kiss everyone she meets, her readiness to volunteer help to others, and her indomitable faith in God that’s not dimmed by hardship.

“I had a phone call from her daughter, June Lester, that her mother had been under Hospice care for lung cancer,” David Nolan reported to Historic City News this morning. “She had been honored most recently by being selected to light the city Christmas tree in the plaza. Family members stood in for her, as her health did not permit her to appear.”

St Augustine was Carrie Johnson’s hometown, she was born here on February 28, 1935. She had been living in Miami for many years, raising a family and working as a teacher’s aide. In earlier years she had been a member of the famous Salt and Pepper Gospel Choir that performed at Yale University and on the steps of the nation’s Capitol in Washington D.C. That was until Hurricane Andrew struck in August 1992. The Category 5 storm devastated the area where she was living. She returned to her childhood home and remained a prominent figure in the Lincolnville community for more than 20-years until her death.

She returned at a time when there was still what she often called “an invisible vapor” left over from the age of racial segregation, she launched a personal effort against it by greeting everyone, black and white, as she traversed the town on a three-wheeled tricycle; which she variously described as her “Rolls Royce” or “Lamborghini”.

In a booming voice, you would here “HELLO, DARLING” a block or two before you reached the birdlike grey-haired great grandmother. The force of her personality and goodwill proved irresistible, and without the worldly benefits of wealth or power she managed to become a significant force in the community. Her picture regularly graced the front pages of newspapers and magazines, and she appeared in many films about St. Augustine.

Johnson was one of the founders of ACCORD, the organization formed in 2002 to honor the participants in the civil rights movement in St. Augustine. She also served as Vice President of the Fort Mose Historical Society, which promoted the important story of the free black pioneer community forming the northern defense of St. Augustine in Spanish colonial times.

Sadly, this was one of Carrie’s favorite times of year. For many years she sponsored Christmas Caroling, and she established the Miss Carrie Foundation for Homeless Students to help students from homeless families. In 2016 she promoted a celebration of the 150th Anniversary of Lincolnville.

It would take an encyclopedia to list all of the community events where she was a major speaker or organizer or singer. Suffice it to say that she was an inspiration to all, encouraging everyone to do their best.

“I was just thinking the other day that Carrie’s first St. Augustine home was in a building, no longer standing, at the corner of Bravo and Weeden Streets at the northern end of Lincolnville,” Nolan added. “She was living almost in the back yard of that site, at the corner of Bravo and Riberia Streets in 2016 when Hurricane Michael hit and inundated her house with several feet of water.”

She spent her last two years living in St. Augustine Shores.

Always entrepreneurial, she used her extraordinary voice as a street singer on St. George Street, until the city banned singers. Then a group of admirers paid to produce a tape of her singing, which she sold at many performances around the state of “Black History Through Song” and a one-woman show where she portrayed the indomitable Harriet Tubman of the Underground Railroad.