Winston E. Johnson was born in Valdosta on July 4, 1941 and died in Atlanta on May 11, 2021, after a two decade battle with prostate cancer and finally bladder cancer. Atlanta was home for over fifty years. Winston sends a very special thank you to the Interventional Radiation Team and the Palliative Team at the Atlanta VA Medical Center.
Winston was with Eastern Airlines for 24 years during the halcyon days of air travel and then nine years as corporate sales director at Carey Limousine in Atlanta. However, Winston's most important accomplishment in life was caring for his life partner of 42 years, Leon Allen, through 17 years of Parkinson's disease. Winston said Leon was the best patient anyone could wish for. Leon died very peacefully at home, in February 2006, in Winston's arms.
In the mid 1980s, Winston and Leon became affiliated with the Human Rights Campaign. The founders of HRC realized that LGBTQ people needed a presence in Washington, DC if they were ever to achieve equal rights. HRC is the largest national organization in the struggle for equality for LGBTQ persons. The success of that effort is very visible today in the more general acceptance of LGBTQ people and especially same sex marriage and the June 2020 decision by the Supreme Court to outlaw firing of LGBTQ people due to sexual orientation or gender identity.
In more recent years, Winston's political activism included the fight for the full spectrum of end-of-life options. After his partner, Leon, died of Parkinson's, Winston never expected to reach an advanced age. Winston would say, "I am not afraid of dying, I just want to avoid the pain. This was informed by an experience I had a few years ago in an emergency room where I was in excruciating pain for twelve hours and the doctor refused to treat my pain appropriately while I, a man in my 70s, cried and writhed in pain. I hope my story will inspire Georgians to speak out in support of medical aid in dying. When one is terminally ill, if that person is of sound mind, it should be up to that person to decide when they can take no more."
Winston is survived by his brother Hjalma Johnson (Laura) of Dade City, Florida and many nieces and nephews, including Hjalma and Laura's son Leonard (Nancy) of Dade City and Tampa, Florida. He was preceded in death by his beloved partner Leon, his father Curtis and mother Florence, his sisters Helon and Mary and his brothers Doyle, Lucian Mitchell, Leslie, and Bethel Ray.
For anyone who wishes to remember Winston with a donation, please consider Compassion and Choices. Compassion and Choices is the premier organization in the United States working all over the country for "death with dignity" laws. Compassion & Choices, PO Box 485, Etna, NH 03750. https://www.compassionandchoices.org/contribution/give-a-gift-in-honor-of-a-friend-or-loved-one/
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Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com