NEW BEDFORD — Local activist Eddie Johnson passed away Sunday morning at the age of 72.
“He was very active and outspoken,” said Anita Dutra, who had been in a relationship with Johnson for 24 years. Dutra said she got to see that side of him, but also a more quiet side when they were home together.
Johnson passed away Sunday morning at home. He fell ill about a month and a half ago with complications with fluid retention and he had multiple health issues with his heart, according to Dutra.
Johnson was a creator and served as president of CLEAN (Citizens Leading Environmental Action Network). He also served as president of the Parting Ways Museum Corp. of African American & Cape Verdean American Ethnohistory Inc. Johnson campaigned to build a museum for the artifacts, documents and stories related to four African-Americans who fought in the Revolutionary War at a time when the vast majority of black Americans were slaves.
“People didn’t always agree with him,” Dutra admitted. She said she supported his passions while he supported hers — early education for children.
WBSM talk show host Chris McCarthy called Johnson “an American original.”
McCarthy said he and former mayor Scott Lang talked Saturday about a tribute to Johnson via an interview to document his lifelong hard work in his own words.
“Well respected, very accomplished, just a good guy,” McCarthy said.
“He always had a point of view that was unabashed. He told you exactly how he felt,” Lang said. He admitted although many times he didn’t agree with Johnson or didn’t think he was right, Johnson was well-prepared, backed up his points and was polite.
“Every time I spoke with him, I learned something,” Lang said, noting Johnson was learned, a tremendous technical writer and someone who approached things with a cause, not self-interest.
Buddy Andrade said “Many of the fights that he was fighting will continue to go on."
“We were the organizers and the mobilizers,” he said. “Eddie’s energy kept us all going.”
Carol Strupczewski of CLEAN said New Bedford High School is environmentally the cleanest it’s been since the day it opened.
“Had Eddie not been there to organize...this would not be the case today,” she said, nodding at Johnson as a driving force.
“He did a lot of good for this city and for many people and he always had a smile,” she said.
Follow Aimee Chiavaroli on Twitter @AimeeC_SCT.