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In Memoriam:
Genita Evangelista Johnson
1935 - 2020

Every day of my life, my Queen GiGi inspired me to achieve many great accomplishments and I know I will continue to derive that same loving inspiration from her even in death. My love for her is and will always remain eternal.

ABC Founder Richard Allen Williams, MD


The Association of Black Cardiologists (ABC) is deeply saddened by the passing of longtime ABC member Genita Evangelista Johnson, fondly referred to as “GiGi.” She died June 13 at the age of 84.

ABC Board Chair Elizabeth Ofili, MD, MPH, said in a statement: “Our dearest GiGi was the quintessential first lady, a smart, self-made woman, whose vivacious beauty and grace was only matched by her deep devotion. I remember marveling as she organized beautiful receptions at the National Medical Association for her devoted partner, Dr. Richard Allen Williams, where he displayed his amazing talent with the trumpet. The crowd loved it, and in my view, the NMA presidency was 'in the bag!' She was truly a force of nature. We witnessed her amazing generosity and contributions to the Association of Black Cardiologists’ Richard Allen Williams and GiGi Johnson scholarships and other causes. The ABC has indeed lost a devoted friend.”

(from L to R) Dr. Willams and GiGi at the 2018 Spirit of the Heart Awards Dinner
GiGi was an educator, a businesswoman and a philanthropist, whose absence will be keenly felt. She was born on September 21, 1935, in Charleston, South Carolina. She graduated from St. Margaret's Academy in Boston, MA and went on to attend Butler University in Indianapolis, IN, where she earned a BA in Liberal Arts, an MA in Early Childhood Education and teaching credentials. Upon graduation, she began working for the Indianapolis Public Schools (IPS) system as a fourth grade teacher. During those first two years out of college, the Superintendent of Education appointed her to design and implement a model remedial reading program for inner-city schools, which dramatically improved student test scores. Later, she served as the Chief Psychological Consultant for eight elementary and two high schools in that same school system. After 13 years, she left IPS to serve as the Director for the Race Desegregation Institute at Indiana University in Indianapolis, IN. There, she trained teachers and school administrators.

(from L to R) Ola Akinboboye, MD, Philip Duncan, MD, and Michelle Albert, MD, with GiGi during the ABC 2013 Saving Hearts for Generations, the Fourth Annual ABC Awards Dinner, where she was honored with the Generations Award
ABC President Michelle A. Albert, MD, MPH, said in a statement: “GiGi was a force to be reckoned with. She was a brilliant, successful entrepreneur and leader who was part of the ABC family. She generously and self-lessly donated her time and financial resources to ABC in order to improve the lives of others. Rest in peace GiGi. Your ABC family will always remember your smile, grace and kindness eternally.”

GiGi was also a savvy businesswoman. For over 50 plus years, even as she began her career in education, she owned and operated, along with other family members, several real estate brokerage firms and enterprises, where she managed office and residential properties and restored historical buildings, first in Indianapolis and later in Los Angeles. In her most recent venture, she had been the Principal Partner of GE Johnson and Son, a real estate development and securities investment firm.

ABC Past Board Chair Cheryl Pegus with Dr. Williams and GiGi at the ABC-NMA Joint Symposium at the National Medical Association annual conference
ABC Immediate Past Board Chair Cheryl Pegus, MD, said in a statement: “Today, we lost a member of the ABC family and community. One of our most ardent supporters, the partner of our founder, Dr. Richard Allen Williams. GiGi was a shining light in so many of our lives. Our prayers and condolences are with Dr. Williams at this time.”

GiGi will be remembered most for her unwavering support of educators, students and musicians as well as her steadfast commitment to the elimination of disparities. The ABC will always be indebted to GiGi for her generosity. In 2012, she established and provided the seed funding for the Dr. Richard Allen Williams & Genita Evangelista Johnson/Association of Black Cardiologists Scholarship for African American medical students. The scholarship is administered by the American Medical Association Foundation and recognizes an African American medical student with an expressed interest in cardiology. The scholarship was first awarded in 2014 to Kathryn Harris from Meharry Medical College.

Robert Gillespie, MD (far left) and Lisa Gillespie with GiGi and Dr. Williams at ABC's annual Cardiologists-in-Training Symposium
ABC Past Chairman of the Board Robert Gillespie, MD, said in a statement: “GiGi was kind, elegant and beautiful. Even during her illness, she was able to make others happy. The ABC will forever be indebted to her mere presence and contributions to the organization.”

GiGi also instituted the Taryn Lisa Johnson Scholarship for African American girls from Los Angeles County entering college, in conjunction with the Gamma Zeta Boule' Foundation in Pasadena, CA, and in recognition of her daughter, Taryn, who passed away in 2016. In 2018, she set up the Genita Evangelista Johnson Scholarship for Black high school girls pursuing medical careers, with the National Medical Fellowships.

During Gigi’s lifetime, she made significant financial contributions to numerous organizations and causes, including the South Central Scholars, to help minority high school students enter college; the Creative Teachers Association, to assist teachers in their educational pursuits in Los Angeles and around the world; the Minority Health Institute, to stimulate patient-centered care; the California Partnership to Assist Treatment (CPAT), to encourage enrollment in Covered California; the California Jazz Foundation, to help in-need jazz musicians; as well as to the Cancer Survivors Fund, the Children's Cancer Dream Network, the YMCA "Young Black Achievers in Business" at the Walnut St. Branch in Wilmington, DE and the Homeless Veterans of Los Angeles.

GiGi and Dr. Williams at ABC's annual Spirit of the Heart Awards Dinner
Many organizations have honored GiGi for her generosity with Proclamations, including the American Medical Association for her outstanding philanthropy benefitting deprived medical students; the Association of Black Cardiologists for her help in increasing diversity and decreasing healthcare disparities; Los Angeles County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas for her philanthropy for minority youth in Los Angeles County; Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin for her educational assistance to inner-city youth; and the Gamma Zeta Boule' Foundation for the establishment of the Taryn Lisa Johnson Scholarship benefiting young African American college-bound girls.

She received the ABC Generations Award during its Saving Hearts for Generations Awards Dinner in Washington, DC in 2013 (see photo at top). She was also the honorary chair for the dinner. In 2014, she was honored at the Annual Women of the Year Awards and Scholarship Luncheon hosted by the Los Angeles County Commission for Women for bringing about social and economic change in the community. She was featured in the Boule' Journal, Fall 2015 edition, for outstanding philanthropy and public service to Black youth.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire family. GiGi’s gracious spirit was an inspiration to us all and will be dearly missed. Rest in Peace!

The Johnson Family will be announcing a virtual Memorial Service in the coming months.

The ABC invites you to share your memories, stories and reflections.

SHARE HERE



Cassandra McCullough with GiGi at the Welcome Reception for the 2018 Spirit of the Heart Awards Dinner weekend
GiGi was a bright light and lived a beautifully-rounded life. She was an inspiring example of “what are you doing for others” and truly an apostle dedicated to the cause of increasing opportunities for young black women and men interested in medicine. She endeavored faithfully to persuade students to lead a better life. I will miss my dear friend. May her soul rest in peace and her legacy forever live through the many lives touched.

Cassandra McCullough, MBA
CEO, Association of Black Cardiologists






(from L to R) Elizabeth Ofili, MD with GiGi and Dr. Williams
GiGi, my family and I are grateful for the time we shared with you and Richard. I will miss your gentle smile and kind notes, always signed with a rose. I am grateful for the notes and pictures...I pray that your devoted partner Richard, and members of your family, will find comfort in the many joyful moments that you shared together. Rest in Peace, Dear First Lady of the ABC.
Love always, Elizabeth




Drs. Bola and Felix Sogade (to right) with GiGi and Dr. Williams at the 2016 Joint ABC-NMA event
My deepest condolences to the family of GiGi Johnson and Dr. Richard Allen Williams. I have gotten to know GiGi as a consistent member of ABC over the course of almost a decade. What is most evident about GiGi is her elegance and the gravitas that is rendered to any ABC event by her mere presence in the room, even if she did not utter a word. She will be fondly remembered and we thank God for her life and the many generous ways she has supported the organization over the years. May her soul Rest In Peace.

Drs. Felix and Bola Sogade



(L to R) Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, Dr. Felix Sogade, Dr. Williams, GiGi, Dr. Barbara Hutchinson, Dr. Malcom Taylor, and Dr. Jesse McGee
On behalf of Merton and I, we would like to extend condolences to the family of Ms. GiGi Johnson and Dr. Richard Allen Williams. We will always remember her as a woman of grace, poise, always pleasant and most of all her passion for increasing the cardiovascular workforce pipeline beginning with the younger generation, through scholarships. We will keep that flag flying!!!!


Barbara Hutchinson, MD, PhD




Dr. Icilma Fergus Rowe (far right) with GiGi, Dr. Williams and scholarship recipients at the 2017 Spirit of the Heart Awards Dinner
My husband Robert and I express our deepest condolences for the loss of our dear GiGi, "You shall indeed be missed!" GiGi was the quintessential presence of beauty, grace and benevolence. She had that forever projection of eternal youth. For her, age was merely a number....as she continued to be bold and impactful in her endeavors. "You will never be forgotten especially for your generosity to others, including the ABC scholarship fund created in your name to ensure the perpetuity of the cardiovascular workforce." Rest in Peace!

With heartfelt compassion, Icilma Fergus Rowe, MD



Dr. Richard Allen Williams & Genita Evangelista Johnson/Association of Black Cardiologists Scholarship

2014 Kathryn Harris from Meharry Medical College
2015 Denise Kimbrough, Medical University of South Carolina
2016 Paris Austell, Rush Medical College
2017 Ka’la Drayton, Medical University of South Carolina
2017 Quincy Alvin Banks, Wake Forest School of Medicine
2018 Franck Azobou Tonleu, University of Virginia School of Medicine
2019 Joseph Kern, University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine



I met Ms. Genita Evangelista Johnson in 2014 after she gifted me with a scholarship toward completing my medical school. Since the day we met, she’s always been actively supportive of me. She has been there for me through graduation and into residency. I’ve looked forward to seeing and spending time with her at ABC events. We’ve shared so many memories in the last six years. I was able to help her bring in her 80th birthday. She stood with me when I received my medical degree. Ms. GiGi was such a gracious woman. Her spirit was young and vibrant. Her generosity is inspiring. Her love and support over the years meant everything to me. She was a part of my family and has a special place in my heart. I love her and I miss her. She made a huge impact on my life and the lives of many other young black doctors and future doctors. We miss her. I know we can further her legacy.

Kathryn Harris, MD
2014 recipient of the Dr. Richard Allen Williams & Genita Evangelista Johnson Scholarship



Scholarship recipient Denise Kimbrough with GiGi at the 2015 Spirit of the Heart Awards Dinner
“Don’t judge me by my words, but let my actions speak for me.” There are few people in the world who this quote truly represents including Mrs. Genita Evangelista Johnson. She poured her heart, strength and wisdom into the role that came with a scholarship that allowed me and others to achieve our goals while becoming our ancestors wildest dreams. More importantly, she cared and encouraged behind closed doors. She may never know that her simplest “Push On” was enough to silence the fear of failure and provided the fuel for me to finish the marathon that was medical school. In the challenging times we currently face, the legacy she has built for future cardiologists will be only a small fraction of the impact she will continue to have on healthcare and combatting its disparities. I pray for peace and understanding for her family. There are no words to express how heavy of a burden her loss will be to carry. Though her words may only be distant memories, her actions will forever be reflected in those whose path she has paved.

Denise Kimbrough, MD
2015 recipient of the Dr. Richard Allen Williams & Genita Evangelista Johnson Scholarship



As a recipient of the Dr. Richard Allen Williams and Genita Evangelista Johnson through the Association of Black Cardiologist Scholarship, I want to express my sincere condolences to the family, friends and extended colleagues of Mrs. Genita Evangelista Johnson. Her selfless generosity and unwavering commitment to the medical community will be greatly missed. As we honor Mrs. Johnson on this day, it is important that we remember her greatest gift to us all, herself. I’m beyond grateful for her contributions towards my medical school career. As a recent graduate and incoming surgery intern, I’m charged by her determination and grit to make contributions towards the improvement of the “diversity deficit” that led her towards funding the endowment to eliminate healthcare disparities in cardiovascular disease.

Ka’la D. Drayton, MD, MHIT
2017 recipient of the Dr. Richard Allen Williams & Genita Evangelista Johnson Scholarship



"I would like to express my condolences regarding this tragic loss. I was fortunate to be a recipient of the Dr. Richard Allen Williams & Genita Evangelista Johnson ABC Scholarship. It was such an honor to be chosen for this award. I remember looking up the individuals for whom the scholarship was named after, and it was inspiring to see all they have done. Dr. Williams and Genita Johnson paved the way so that people like me could have the opportunity to do great things. The world has lost a trailblazer, and I hope to work hard to continue the work that she started."


Franck H. Azobou Tonleu, MD
2018 recipient of the Dr. Richard Allen Williams & Genita Evangelista Johnson Scholarship






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