Johnnie Johnson’s family awarded Congressional gold medal for his military service

ST. LOUIS (KPLR) - He`s one of the most famous side men in rock and roll history. But Monday Johnnie Johnson was noted for his military service.

More than 130 family and friends filled the National Blues Museum Monday morning for a gold medal ceremony awarding a Congressional gold medal to the late Johnnie Johnson.

Senator Claire McCaskill set the overdue honor in motion.

'This is something our office does that I think is really I think the most important work we do,' says Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri.  'He was a Montford Point Marine which was the first black marine unit in our military and because of that they endured a lot of cruelty and a lot of overt racism.'

During World War II, Johnson was a member of the Montford Point Marines and trained for duty at the segregated facility at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

'It really shows that Johnnie was more than what the average person thought they knew of a piano man,' says Frances Johnson, Widow.  'That he gave thought to his contribution to our country way back when it mattered, to become a pioneer more or less.'

The Congressional gold medal, along with the Presidential Medal of Freedom are the highest civilian honors for citizens whose achievements had an impact on American history and culture.

'His military service had a lot to do with his professional life later as a musician,' says Bill Stalnaker, Friend.  'He loved every minute of it and talked about the pretty blue uniforms.  He`d say the Marines have the best looking uniforms.'

And now the man many called Johnnie B. Goode can now be called Johnnie B. Gold medal.