Johnson, Ella Mae Cheeks, 1904-2010

Alternative names

Hide Profile

Ella Mae Cheeks Johnson (maiden name Smith) was born in Dallas, Texas, on January 13, 1904. Orphaned at four years old, she was taken in by neighbors, the Davis family. She attended Dallas Colored High School and graduated in 1921. She went on to Fisk University using scholarships, fellowships, and her own work to pay her way. She graduated in 1925 one semester late due to a student strike incited by W.E.B. Dubois, with a degree in French. Unsure that she would find a job as an African American French teacher, she had also taken classes in sociology. After living and working at a settlement house during her senior year at Fisk, Ella Mae decided to pursue a career in social work. She entered the field as a social worker with a church in North Carolina. A friend from Fisk who lived in Cleveland, Ohio, recommended that Ella Mae apply to the School of Applied Social Sciences at Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University). She came to Cleveland in 1926 and graduated from Western Reserve University in 1928 with a master's degree in social work. She became a member of Mt. Zion Congregational Church during this time and remained so throughout her life. As a social worker she worked for Associated Charities of Cleveland and then the Cuyahoga County Department of Welfare in conjunction with the federal program Aid to Dependent Children which became Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Her clients included future Cleveland mayor Carl Stokes (1927-1996) and his brother Louis Stokes (b. 1925), who later served in the United States House of Representatives. She retired in 1961 and began travelling, eventually visiting 30 different countries including Switzerland, Greece, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Kenya. Ella Mae Smith married Elmer Cheeks on September 23, 1929. They had two sons, Elmer James Cheeks, Jr. (Jim), born in 1930 and Paul, born in 1936. Elmer Cheeks died in 1941, and Ella Mae Cheeks married Raymond Johnson in 1957. They remained together until his death in 1983. She lived at Judson Park from 1975 (at first with Ray, and then alone) until her death in 2010. Ella Mae Cheeks Johnson was active with her church, her sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, and the Phyllis Wheatley Association. She also liked to do crafts, needlework, and knitting. One of her life's goals was to help "the needy" using the Good Samaritan as a role model. At her birthday parties in lieu of gifts she would ask for donations to different charities including aid to Africans with HIV/AIDS and Smile Train, which raises money to give children with cleft palates the surgery they need. An active reader, she stayed informed on current affairs and became interested in Barak Obama after his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech. She followed his career and supported his election to the Presidency. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown secured tickets to President Obama's inauguration for Ella Mae Cheeks Johnson, and at the age of 105 she braved hours of cold weather with her nurse, Iris Williams to attend. She was interviewed by Gwen Ifill regarding the experience, and local articles also appeared about her. Due to this media attention, friends and family encouraged her to write her autobiography. With the help of free lance writer Patricia Mulcahy, It is Well With My Soul: The Extraordinary Life of a 106-Year- Old Woman was published in 2010, released just shortly after Ella Mae's death. Ella Mae Cheeks Johnson passed away on March 22, 2010 at her home in Judson Park.

From the guide to the Ella Mae Cheeks Johnson Photographs, 1921-2010, (Western Reserve Historical Society)

Ella Mae Cheeks Johnson was born in Dallas, Texas in 1904. Orphaned at age four, she was raised by the Davis family. She attended Dallas Colored High School and Fisk University before applying to the School of Applied Social Sciences at Western Reserve University. Johnson graduated in 1928 with a master's degree in social work. As a social worker, Johnson was first employed by Associated Charities of Cleveland. Later, she worked for the Cuyahoga County Department of Welfare in conjunction with the federal program Aid to Dependent Children. She retired in 1961. Johnson married Elmer Cheeks in 1929. They had two sons. Cheeks died in 1941, and Johnson married Raymond Johnson in 1957. He died in 1983. Mrs. Johnson was an active member of Mt. Zion Congregational Church, an avid reader and traveler, and a supporter of a variety of charities. At age 105, she attended the inauguration of President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C. Soon after, with the assistance of a freelance writer, she wrote her autobiography. It was published shortly after her death in 2010.

From the description of Ella Mae Cheeks Johnson papers, 1948-2010. (Rhinelander District Library). WorldCat record id: 698353710

Ella Mae Cheeks Johnson (maiden name Smith) was born in Dallas, Texas, on January 13, 1904. Orphaned at four years old, she was taken in by neighbors, the Davis family. She attended Dallas Colored High School and graduated in 1921. She went on to Fisk University using scholarships, fellowships, and her own work to pay her way. She graduated in 1925 one semester late due to a student strike incited by W.E.B. Dubois, with a degree in French.

Unsure that she would find a job as an African American French teacher, she had also taken classes in sociology. After living and working at a settlement house during her senior year at Fisk, Ella Mae decided to pursue a career in social work. She entered the field as a social worker with a church in North Carolina. A friend from Fisk who lived in Cleveland, Ohio, recommended that Ella Mae apply to the School of Applied Social Sciences at Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University). She came to Cleveland in 1926 and graduated from Western Reserve University in 1928 with a master's degree in social work. She became a member of Mt. Zion Congregational Church during this time and remained so throughout her life.

As a social worker she worked for Associated Charities of Cleveland and then the Cuyahoga County Department of Welfare in conjunction with the federal program Aid to Dependent Children which became Aid to Families with Dependent Children. Her clients included future Cleveland mayor Carl Stokes (1927-1996) and his brother Louis Stokes (b. 1925), who later served in the United States House of Representatives. She retired in 1961 and began travelling, eventually visiting 30 different countries including Switzerland, Greece, Israel, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Kenya.

Ella Mae Smith married Elmer Cheeks on September 23, 1929. They had two sons, Elmer James Cheeks, Jr. (Jim), born in 1930 and Paul, born in 1936. Elmer Cheeks died in 1941, and Ella Mae Cheeks married Raymond Johnson in 1957. They remained together until his death in 1983. She lived at Judson Park from 1975 (at first with Ray, and then alone) until her death in 2010.

Ella Mae Cheeks Johnson was active with her church, her sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha, and the Phyllis Wheatley Association. She also liked to do crafts, needlework, and knitting. One of her life's goals was to help "the needy" using the Good Samaritan as a role model. At her birthday parties in lieu of gifts she would ask for donations to different charities including aid to Africans with HIV/AIDS and Smile Train, which raises money to give children with cleft palates the surgery they need.

An active reader, she stayed informed on current affairs and became interested in Barak Obama after his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech. She followed his career and supported his election to the Presidency. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown secured tickets to President Obama's inauguration for Ella Mae Cheeks Johnson, and at the age of 105 she braved hours of cold weather with her nurse, Iris Williams to attend. She was interviewed by Gwen Ifill regarding the experience, and local articles also appeared about her. Due to this media attention, friends and family encouraged her to write her autobiography. With the help of free lance writer Patricia Mulcahy, It is Well With My Soul: The Extraordinary Life of a 106-Year- Old Woman was published in 2010, released just shortly after Ella Mae's death. Ella Mae Cheeks Johnson passed away on March 22, 2010 at her home in Judson Park.

From the guide to the Ella Mae Cheeks Johnson Papers, 1948-2010, (Western Reserve Historical Society)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf Johnson, Ella Mae Cheeks, 1904-2010. Ella Mae Cheeks Johnson papers, 1948-2010. Western Reserve Historical Society, Research Library
creatorOf Ella Mae Cheeks Johnson Papers, 1948-2010 Western Reserve Historical Society
creatorOf Ella Mae Cheeks Johnson Photographs, 1921-2010 Western Reserve Historical Society
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Case Western Reserve University. corporateBody
associatedWith Fisk University. corporateBody
associatedWith Mt. Zion Congregational Church (Cleveland, Ohio) corporateBody
Place Name Admin Code Country
Ohio--Cleveland
United States
Subject
Philanthropists--Ohio--Cleveland--Photographs
Charities
Birthday parties--Photographs
African Americans--Ohio--Cleveland--Photographs
Congregational churches--Ohio--Cleveland
Social service
African Americans--Education (Higher)
Johnson family.--Photographs
Civil rights--United States
Johnson, Ella Mae Cheeks, 1904-2010
African American women--Ohio--Cleveland
Fisk University
Johnson, Ella Mae Cheeks, 1904-2010--Photograph collections
Social workers
African Americans
Congregational churches
African American women--Ohio--Cleveland--Photographs
Social workers--Ohio--Cleveland
Dallas Colored High School (Dallas, Tex.)--Photographs
African Americans--Education (Higher)--United States
Social service--Ohio--Cleveland
Cheek family--Photographs
Mt. Zion Congregational Church (Cleveland, Ohio)
Civil rights
African American women
Case Western Reserve University
Charities--Ohio--Cleveland
African Americans--Ohio--Cleveland
Social workers--Ohio--Cleveland--Photographs
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1904-01-13

Death 2010-03-22

Information

Permalink: http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w6d871sp

Ark ID: w6d871sp

SNAC ID: 39994626