Hazel W. Johnson-Brown: The First African American Chief of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps
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Born into a family of seven children in 1927, Hazel W. Johnson-Brown grew up on a farm in West Chester, Pennsylvania. She dreamed of becoming a nurse from a young age, but was rejected from the Chester School of Nursing because of her race. Instead, she attended the Harlem Hospital School of Nursing in New York, graduating in 1950. She spent a few years working in hospitals in New York and Philadelphia before joining the Army Nurse Corps in 1955.
During her time in the Army, Johnson-Brown served throughout the United States and in Asia. In1979, she was nominated to become the 16th chief of the Army Nurse Corps, and was promoted to brigadier general. Among her many accomplishments during her tenure, Johnson-Brown established a clinical nursing summer camp for ROTC cadets and helped nursing students gain access to academic scholarships for the ROTC.
Johnson-Brown’s military decorations include the Distinguished Service Medal, the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Army Commendation Medal. She was also named Army nurse of the year twice.
In addition to her long and decorated career, Johnson-Brown earned three degrees: a bachelor’s degree in nursing from Villanova University, a master’s degree in nursing education from Columbia University and a PhD in education administration from Catholic University. After retiring from the Army Nurse Corps in 1983, she because a professor in the School of Nursing at George Mason University.