Janie Settles Johnson (June 19, 1931 – May 6, 2012), born Janie Settles, was an American house wife, textile worker and public safety officer who became the first African American female fire and EMS chief in North Carolina and possibly the first in the United States.
Life and work
Janie Settles was born and grew up in Littleton, North Carolina. The youngest of fourteen children of John Wesley Settles and Jannie Harlin Settles. At age 17, she married Herman Johnson, also of Littleton. They moved to Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, in 1949, where they raised their two children (Phyllis and Carlton Johnson) and became members of the Piney Grove Baptist Church in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina.Janie began working in the textile industry as a loom operator for most of the 1950s and early 1960s. As the civil rights movement took hold in south during the late 1950s and throughout the 1960s, she became involved in the movement where she fought to improve employee rights and working conditions for African Americans in the textile factories in Halifax County, North Carolina.
In the mid-1970s Janie and her husband Herman relocated to Topsail Island in Onslow County North Carolina where she started a career in public safety. She noticed that Topsail Island in the 1970s had no organized fire or rescue department and felt one was sorely needed as the island’s population began to grow near the end of that decade. She found herself working with town and county leaders during the late 1970s to build a case base on population tourism growth to establish a dedicated 24/7 fire/rescue department. Finally in the 1982 the Town of West Onslow Beach (now North Topsail Beach) in conjunction with Onslow County Emergency Management established the department and in 1984 Janie became chief of the West Onslow Beach Fire and Rescue Department and consequently the first African American female fire/rescue chief in North Carolina. During that same year, she received an Associate Degree in Medical Science from Coastal Carolina Community College in Jacksonville, North Carolina and served as a captain of paramedic services for the department. This was a dream fulfilled as she dedicated much her life to helping others.
Janie retired from Onslow County Emergency Management Services in 1994 but remained active in the Topsail Island community until 2005 when she relocated to back to Littleton, North Carolina
In her later years, Janie spent much of her time attending church and maintaining a half acre botanical garden at her Littleton home and traveling on occasion to Topsail for ocean views at her beach home. She remained very active with the local Littleton community and spent much of her time in the local Women’s Mission Organization, singing in the choir, and participating in many other Outreach activities.
In September 2010 Janie was diagnosed with mesothelioma, which was possibly the result of her exposure to asbestos fibers during her years as a textile factory worker in Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina. Janie died from complications associated with mesothelioma on May 6th, 2012 at the age of 80.
- ↑ Janie Settles Johnson (2012-05-09). Janie Settles Johnson - Roanoke Rapids Daily Herald: Obituaries. Rrdailyherald.com. Retrieved on 2012-06-07.
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