SAN DIEGO -- The San Diego LGBT community is in mourning after the death of one of its pioneers, Gloria Johnson, who died Sunday morning, according to the San Diego Democrats for Equality. Johnson was 76 years old, according to Jeri Dilno, who said her friend "shared her birthday on Aug. 26 with Women's Equality Day, a fact that pleased her immensely."
The list of awards and honors that Johnson received throughout her remarkable life is long, as she was a champion for LGBT and women's equality, and civil rights for all people. Johnson was involved in numerous organizations, campaigns and activities since the 1960s when she involved herself in the civil rights and peace movements of that time.
Professionally, Johnson had a 30 year career working for the County of San Diego as a social worker, and one of the first in her field in the county to work with people with HIV/AIDS in the AIDS Case Management Program. She retired in 2000, but did not slow down, continuing her activism and work with the Democratic Party nearly up until her death.
Johnson was a well-respected member of the local Democratic Party, serving as a longtime board member and past president of the group now known as the San Diego Democrats for Equality. She also held numerous roles with the San Diego Democratic Central Committee, and was the first openly gay/lesbian person to be elected to the committee.
Johnson served on numerous local campaign staffs including Christine Kehoe, Donna Frye, Mike Aguirre and others. She also served as a delegate to the 1996 and 2000 Democratic National Conventions.
Johnson's work with the LGBT and women's communities included service as one of the founding members of the Lesbian Rights Task Force in the 1980s, president of the Local NOW chapter, and director of NOW's 1988 National Lesbian Rights Conference.
Johnson was inducted into the San Diego Women's Hall of Fame in 2003, and a video created for the occasion explains much of Johnson's work up until that time.
Among her other honors include being named one of The Advocate's Top 400 US Gay Leaders in 1984, Gay & Lesbian Times' Person of the Year in 2009; Lambda Archives' Heroes, Pioneers & Trailblazers Award in 2011; California Assembly District 76 LGBT Person of the Year in 2012, and many others.
She also received recognition from San Diego LGBT Pride several times, being named Grand Marshall in both 1977 and 1982, and Women of the Year in 1987 and 1996.
Johnson told Gay San Diego in 2012 that Pride was her "favorite 'holiday'" and that she enjoyed it more than the traditional holidays.
"I have been there from the earliest days when a small group of us LG folks (we didn’t have the B/T yet) strutted down Broadway and waived at a few people along the way," Johnson said.
News of Johnson's death spread fast on Social Media, with a flood of comments appearing on Facebook starting on Sunday afternoon.
The San Diego Democratic Club, which first shared the news of Johnson's passing, called Johnson "one of a kind."
Interim Mayor Todd Gloria tweeted the news, adding his condolences.
Deeply saddened by Gloria Johnson's passing. Democrat, feminist & LGBT trailblazer. A phenomenal woman who left her mark on the world.
— Todd Gloria (@ToddGloria) September 23, 2013
Assemblymember Toni Atkins also tweeted.
I am deeply saddened by the passing of my friend and our community hero Gloria Johnson.
— Toni Atkins (@toniatkins) September 23, 2013
Other comments include:
Cindy Green: It's with a heavy heart that I tell my friends in the LGBT community, our friend Gloria Johnson passed away today. Gloria was my friend and my teacher. I will greatly miss her sarcasm and wit.
Doug Case: Rest in peace Gloria. You were a tenacious activist. We will miss you greatly.
Tryce Czyczynska: Sending a woman's prayer for a woman's strength to bear the responsibilities of progress that Gloria Johnson held so dear. Words can't describe our unfortunate loss.
Laurie Black: RIP dear dear Gloria Johnson who was passionate about being a feminist, democrat, and trailblazer for many causes including LGBT and justice for all. We are all the better for your hard work here in San Diego for so many years. It just won't be the same without you!
Renee Richetts: Gloria Johnson, your were my mentor for literally decades. Your activism changed our world for the better. Kind, peace loving, brilliant. You will be so missed. Rest in peace dear woman. Your example will go forward, as will your life-time of exceptional work.
Vince Hall: A powerful and effective champion for LGTB equality, women's rights, health care, and social justice, whom I was so fortunate to call my friend for decades. Gloria Johnson will never be equalled or replaced, but her values and uncompromising commitment to social change inspire us all. R.I.P.
Eric Banks: Very sad learning that Gloria Johnson has passed away. Safe journey Sister, you will be missed.
Ryan Michael Darsey: So sad to hear about the passing of Gloria Johnson . Words can not even describe the impact she has had on our community. She was a pioneer for equal rights and helped pave the way for my generation. She also was an amazing democratic activist.
Sam Ward: For a long, long time, Gloria Johnson was a walking talking barometer of good candidates and good elected officials. If you walked into a campaign office and you didn't see Gloria, that meant you were on the wrong team. She leaves a huge void in our community.
Benjamin Katz: Gloria Johnson was one of the strongest and most honorably fighters for justice I'll probably ever know. I'll do my best to honor her memory by continuing the fight.
Cat Ortiz White: I'm proud to say I met Gloria Johnson on quite a few occasions. She was such an amazing woman. A constant activist up until the very end fighting for education, equal rights and justice. She will be truly missed!
Sista Moon: GloJo, you were such an inspiration to progressives in our community. You were always on the right side of history. I will miss seeing your bright smile at equality events. RIP Glojo.
Jacqueline Palmer: I'm very sad tonight to learn that our community has lost Gloria Johnson. I should have told her many more times how amazing I thought she was. She was a tireless advocate for so many communities, and would do anything to help a young woman find her way. May she have the rest she deserves after decades of hard work.
Robert Gleason: So sad that our valient Gloria Johnson left us today. She was small in stature, but mighty in spirit and deed. Her work fighting for equality for women and her LGBT brothers and sisters is legendary and unparalleled. No matter who you are, you are better off because Gloria once walked among us. While she enters a richly-deserved final sleep, we pledge to carry on in her name.
Andrea Villa: Rest well, our sister, Gloria Johnson. You deserve it after your years of the heavy lift of equality for women and your LGBT sisters and brothers. You have embodied the power of feminist sisterhood - and we carry on in Suffragette spirit for all. Those who knew you thank you on behalf of those who will never know that your work helped to craft a world that's a little more equal. Safe travels, sister.
A Gloria Johnson memorial page has been set-up on Facebook and community members are encouraged to share photos and memories of Johnson.
A date for services has not yet been set but will be announced when it becomes known.