Published February 7, 2013
Mamie Beale Johnson, longtime administrator with UB’s Educational Opportunity Center, died Jan. 26. She was 87.
Born in Lackawanna, Johnson grew up in Buffalo and earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Virginia Union University in 1947, a rare accomplishment for an African-American woman at that time. She was a member of the Alpha Kappa Mu scientific honor society.
Returning to Buffalo, she became the first African-American woman to join Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory, where she worked as a mathematician for 22 years and was part of the team that helped develop the automotive seat belt. Ebony magazine cited her as an African-American “Pioneer in Science” in 1950.
In 1970, she began a 20-year career with EOC, first as registrar, then as a research assistant and community relations and recruitment coordinator. She was recognized with a Certificate of Appreciation for Service and the Oxner/Lytle Award for Outstanding Service.
Johnson was active in numerous volunteer efforts. She was a board member of the United Negro College Fund, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra Women’s Committee, Ujima Theater Company, Everywoman Opportunity Center and the Niagara Frontier Vocational Rehabilitation Center, among other community groups and organizations.
She also was active in the Buffalo Chapter of The Links Inc. and a charter member of the Buffalo Chapter of the Jack and Jill Clubs of America, the Harriet Tubman 300s and Women for Human Rights and Dignity.
Johnson earned numerous honors for her charity and fundraising work, including the Recognition of Volunteerism from the CAO Education Task Force and the United Negro College Fund’s Frederick D. Patterson Distinguished Leadership Award, its Meritorious Service Award and its Recognition for Volunteerism. In 2002, she was named an Uncrowned Queen by the African-American Women Community Builders of Western New York.