Veora Johnson  (b. 1910, d. 2001)
Veora Johnson Veora Johnson Elementary School, Mesa Mesa School District Arts Center,  formerly the Irving School
Veora Johnson began teaching in Mesa at the segregated Booker T. Washington School in 1927 and became the school's principal in 1945. Through her teaching and leadership, she had a profound impact on Mesa's African American community. After the Washington School closed in 1967, she became Irving School's principal. The first African American principal in Mesa, she was also one of the first to hold administrative credentials in Arizona.

Region: Phoenix and Central Arizona
Theme: Women in Education

Veora Johnson was a student at Prairie View College, a segregated school in Texas, when she was recruited by Mesa Public School Superintendent, H. E. Hendricks. Hendricks was looking for a role model for young black students to encourage them to remain in school, and the college president recommended Veora Johnson, who was only 17.

Johnson became a strong and nurturing teacher who encouraged her students to complete high school and to attend college. She mentored her students while completing her own college education and pursuing professional coursework during evenings and summers. Through her work as a teacher and principal, she was instrumental in increasing the level of education of her students, many of whom went on to complete college.

In 1974 she was chosen by the Mesa Public Schools Superintendent to be a curriculum consultant, through a federal initiative to develop excellent school programs around the country. Some of her innovations in Mesa included team teaching and counseling for elementary schools. She retired in 1975, and the Veora Johnson School was named in her honor in 1985.

Johnson also was active in the black community. During World War II, she was a member of the USO at the Washington Center. She was an active member of her church, the Mt. Cavalry Baptist Church, and worked for civil rights on the Better Community Council. She co-founded the first Greek letter organization "Alpha Sigma" for African Americans in Arizona. In addition, she established two scholarships, preferably for minority students, to reflect her personal concern for quality education for all.

Veora Johnson was also well respected among Euro-Americans in Mesa and was in demand as a board member in numerous organizations including the Mesa League of Women Voters, the Salvation Army, the Mesa Historical Society, Mesa Lutheran Hospital and the Foster Care Review Board.

The community honored Johnson with many awards, including the following: Best Teacher Award, 1948; Mesa Outstanding Citizen, 1953; the Charles D. Poston, Human Relations Award, 1954; Woman of Achievement - Arizona Association of University Women, 1967; and the school named in her honor. The Veora Johnson Elementary School is located at 3807 E. Pueblo Avenue in Mesa. The Irving School, where she worked as principal, is now the Mesa School District Arts Center.

For more information, consult oral histories and files from the Mesa Room at the City of Mesa Library, 64 E. First St. (480) 644-3100.


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