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Accomplished engineer Wallace Johnson has built a life in Hernando County

Wallace Johnston, an engineer and Air Force veteran, has an extensive collection of books related to black American and black world history which he began collecting at age 12.


Wallace Johnston, an engineer and Air Force veteran, has an extensive collection of books related to black American and black world history which he began collecting at age 12.

Q: How long have you lived in Hernando County, and where do you live? Where did you live previously?

I have lived with my wife, Charlene, in Spring Hill since April 1995. I was born in Harlem in New York City in 1929. In 1943, my parents moved to the Bronx. In 1955, I moved to Staten Island, and in 1973 I moved to Plainfield, N.J. In 1990, I moved to Arlington, Va.

Q: Who are the members of your family?

My family consists of Charlene, sons Asao and Toshio, daughter Paige, stepdaughter Leana and stepson Glen. Charlene and I have six grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

I have a sister, Gertrude, who lives in Tampa with her husband, and a brother, Albert, in Pennsylvania. My eldest son, Wallace Kenji, a former Marine and New York City police officer, died at the age of 27 in a car accident.

Q: Tell us about your career.

I graduated high school through the Regents Academic program, New York's highest diploma. I joined the Air Force in September 1950 and served in the Korean Theatre of Operation as a squad leader at a major radio transmission site. I was responsible for five very high-frequency transmitters that alerted three Air Force and two Marine fighter air bases to quickly take off for Korea to help our troops in ground fire fights with North Korean and Chinese troops.

I entered City College of New York in September 1954. After earning my bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering, I took some graduate courses and later earned U.S. Department of Defense certificates in environmental engineering and value engineering. I then passed a two-day written professional engineer exam, and earned a license as a New York professional engineer.

In May 1968, I and classmate Fred Hannaham opened the firm Hannaham and Johnston, consulting electrical/mechanical engineers. Our story was featured in the Long Island Press, New York Times, Specifying Engineer, Amsterdam News and on Channel 5 in New York.

I was also featured in Ebony magazine's Speaking of People. I held a professional engineer license in Texas, Ohio, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Illinois, Tennessee, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Virginia, the District of Columbia and Mississippi.

My firm completed the electrical/mechanical engineering designs for the Mary Holmes College dormitories in West Point, Miss.

Q: What kinds of activities are you involved in now?

I participate in the Take Stock in Children program as a math tutor and mentor. I am still a Florida professional engineer and a member of the Florida Engineering Society. I've volunteered as a judge for Hernando County engineering and science fairs. I'm also a member of the African-American Club of Spring Hill, and I go to the local YMCA about twice a week.

Q: Do you have any special hobbies?

I'm a life member of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and a life member of U.S. National Society of Professional Engineers. I am an avid reader of black American and black world histories. I enjoy solving advanced calculus and engineering vibration problems. I read books pertaining to the American Constitution, the Civil War and the great founders of seven religions.

Q: What are your favorite things to do in Hernando County?

Going to the Hernando County Family YMCA with Charlene and attending performances at Stage West Community Playhouse, the Hernando Symphony Orchestra, the Hernando Performing Arts Guild and the Hernando Jazz Society. I like going to Pine Island beach, movies and restaurants, including Outback Steakhouse, Cracker Barrel and Red Lobster.

Q: What do you think would make Hernando County a better place to live?

Public schools must develop for students the "joy of learning," such as creative thinking.

FCAT lessons must become more than rote learning, and the normal course chapters for the term should be fully studied. Too often, course chapters are not studied due to the many hours devoted to FCAT rote learning.

High-tech companies have very little desire to open a plant in Hernando County because about 25 percent of our local high school graduates require remedial help in math, reading, spelling and writing.

Also, teenagers and young children should not make the traffic roadbed their private playground. And enforce the local law against RV's that overstay their legal time parked in driveways at private homes.

Q: Tell us something about yourself that most people don't know.

In 1969, I solved the problem of jet aircraft fumes entering baggage pickup areas at American Airlines at LaGuardia Airport. I then had my technical paper published in 1976. The title of the paper was "Unique Air Curtain Installation Solves Difficult Airport Problem."

I was a director for the New York Association of Consulting Engineers in 1974 and 1975, and I was the only moderator for the association's mechanical engineering design competition. I had to fully explain the salient engineering designs of seven firms in the competition to a panel of judges who were engineering professionals and high-level industry engineers.

In 1976, I opened the firm Wallace Johnston Engineers. I was selected to be in Who's Who in Engineering, Who's Who Among Black Americans, and Who's Who in the East. I have several designs to my name and hold a certificate of registration for my multi-lamp electric design from the Library of Congress.

Hernando Neighbors is an occasional feature of the Hernando Times. Do you know someone who would make a good profile? We'd like to hear from you. Contact Jean Hayes, community news coordinator, at or (352) 848-1438.

Accomplished engineer Wallace Johnson has built a life in Hernando County 03/21/09 [Last modified: Saturday, March 21, 2009 1:03pm]
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