Sandra Bell Johnson, pastor who became an activist with mothers against gun violence in Baltimore, dies

Pastor Sandy Johnson led Fresh Water Ministries and created a street march for mothers against gun violence in Baltimore.

Sandra Bell "Sandy" Johnson, a member of the Johns Hopkins Hospital pastoral staff who organized a cease-fire march on Mother's Day weekend, died of cardiac arrest June 23 at Good Samaritan Hospital.

The Parkville resident was 62.


Born Sandra Bell in Pitts County, N.C., and known as Pastor Sandy, she was the daughter of James Barnes and Vena Jackson. She moved to Baltimore in 1957 and lived in East Baltimore on East Eager Street.

She attended Booker T. Washington Junior High School and was a 1972 graduate of Eastern High School.


She obtained a bachelor's degree in business administration from Strayer University. She later received a master's degree in Biblical studies from the North Carolina College of Theology.

She worked at the Commercial Credit Corp. in downtown Baltimore before becoming a clerk at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1988.

As a young woman she sang alto in the choirs of the Highway Christian Church and at Mount Calvary Free Will Baptist Church. She met her future husband, Bruce C. Johnson, while he was also a member of the Mount Calvary congregation.

When her husband was named senior pastor at Mount Hebron Baptist Church in West Baltimore, she assisted him as a church singer, choir director and administrator.

While at the church she also organized the women's ministry, Mass choir, a youth ministry and a musical ensemble, the Inspirational Singers.

She decided to join the ministry and preached her first sermon in 1999.

Rev. Johnson was ordained in 2007. She founded the Fresh Water Ministries and established a following.

After the death of her brother, HillardPetey” Jackson, who died in gun violence in 2000, she became an activist with Mothers of Murdered Sons and was an organizer of the Demand Cease Fire March on Mother’s Day weekend 2017.

Family members said she organized the march to call attention to gun violence to gun violence in the neighborhood.


"She felt this was so much more important than spending the day with her children and being pampered by them," said Annette March Grier, a friend who heads Roberta's House, a grief counseling organization.

"Pastor Sandy was full of life," said Ms. Grier. "She was a person who encouraged you. I never saw her down or heartbroken."

In August 2015, she joined the Hopkins Clinical Pastoral Education residency program. In 2016 she became the hospital's Employee Support Chaplain.

She sat on the Hopkins Clinical Pastoral Education Advisory Council.

"Pastor Sandy took her walk of ministry earnestly to places and other paths, which eventually became for her doors to witness," said her mother, Vena Jackson. "Whether those paths led her to political, civic or professional arenas, she entered each of them with holy boldness and uncompromising integrity."

"People remembered her as the lady with the beautiful smile and the graceful presence," said her cousin, Kimberly Hemby of Baltimore.


She is the recipient of several awards, including Women Who Make A Difference.

The Morning Sun

The Morning Sun


Get your morning news in your e-mail inbox. Get all the top news and sports from the

She was a founder, director and lead singer of Unified Voices, a group of gospel singers drawn from Johns Hopkins employees and East Baltimore residents.

She and the group performed at the hospital's annual Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration and at events related to the Hopkins presidential inaugurations and employee recognition events.

She also hosted a local version of "Dancing With The Stars" at Johns Hopkins each year since 2015. Friends said she added her own touches to the event. She also appeared in the Johns Hopkins Medicine "Joy of Medicine" video, which documented staff members explaining what instances provided joy during the work day.

A memorial service will be held at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Johns Hopkins Hospital Turner Auditorium, 720 Rutland Ave.

A celebration of life will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at Mount Pleasant Church and Ministries, 6000 Radecke Avenue.


In addition to her mother, survivors include two daughters, Ericka Johnson and Erin Johnson; two brothers Kelvin Jackson and Xavier Jackson; and a grandson, all of Baltimore. Her husband of 18 years died in 1992.