The Life of Longtime Hoboken Resident, Michael Johnson

There are always people in the community who act out of the kindness of their hearts and are seldom recognized for their generosity and contribution. In honor of Black History Month, we are highlighting someone in the Hoboken community who spent his entire life there, met his wife there, started a family there, retired from a career there, and gave back to the community through coaching several kids’ sports teams in town over the years, his name is Michael Johnson. Read on to learn about the life of a Mile Square native.

Growing Up In Hoboken

michael johnson

Michael Johnson was born in Margaret Hague Hospital in Jersey City and was raised in Hoboken. He grew up on 69 Park Avenue with his father, Wesley, who was the supervisor of a box company, and his mother, Adell, who was a nurse’s aide as well as his brothers Wesley Jr. and Lorenzo.

Like many kids of his generation and generations that followed, Michael spent most of his childhood playing sports in town. Residents could have also found him skateboarding around, and playing games outside his house with the neighborhood kids.

Read More: The Legacy of Tom Olivieri, Hoboken Latino Activist, Through His Daughter’s Eyes

“It was great growing up in a small diverse town where everyone knew each other,” Michael told Hoboken Girl. At that point in Hoboken’s history, the city had become multicultured and while the majority of the resident got along and had mutual respect, despite the difference in cultures, there were still moments where those who were deemed “different” were treated that way. As a Black man, Michael experienced some of that treatment but overall, his life in Hoboken was joyous. “Hoboken did have some problems but overall we got along. I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” Michael says.

michael johnson

He met his wife Althea who was born and raised in Hoboken, the old-fashioned way, seeing each other around town. They got married in 1992 and later had two children together, Ashley and Cory. Cory and his wife Victoria had a daughter, Zoey, making Michael a very proud grandfather. Cory graduated from Hoboken High School, like his father, and attended Stevens Institute of Technology, graduating with a business degree. Ashely too is a graduate of Hoboken High School and went on to become a teacher at Hoboken’s Children’s Academy.

“My heritage means everything to me as a proud black man. My family is my identity, we have values, traditions, and cultures that were handed down for generations,” says Michael. His favorite Black-owned small business is one that’s close to home. “I would have to say my brother’s business Parquet Floors which has been around since 1982 and The Cuban restaurant in Hoboken. 

His go-to restaurant/bar growing up was Fabian’s on 1st and Bloomfield that is now known as McSwiggan’s Pub.

Leaving His Mark 

michael johnson

The Getty gas station and roofing were Michale’s first jobs in Hoboken, before he found he began his career in the Hoboken Parking Authority. Always active in the community, Michael refereed basketball games in 1986 with Buddy Matthews at Connors School and later coached Biddy Basketball for 16 years. “I was an assistant coach with head coach Victor for Stans baseball team 1996-2001,” he explained. Michael coached Hoboken Little League Baseball for many years and was a mentor for the children in town. He was very well known as a pillar in the community for investing so much time in those kid’s lives.

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“I started working as a parking enforcement officer in 1988. I became the parking utility supervisor in 1999 and in 2010, I became a signal and traffic supervisor,” Michael shared. He retired just last year in May 2020.

michael johnson

{Pictured: Micahel alongside his wife and children}

Michael has been a member of the NAACP since 2000 and it was through that organization that he was recognized for his time as a coach and community leader. “I received the NAACP Presidents Award in honor of my leadership with the children of Hoboken in the field of sports. Eugene Drayton was an inspiration to me. He was one of the reasons I joined the NAACP.”

While Michael was an inspiration to many, there were people in his life that inspired him to become the man he is today. “Several people need an honorable mention including the late Gary White who dedicated his life to mentoring youths of Hoboken for many years, Eugene Drayton, Buddy Matthew’s, and Vinny Johnson a longtime Hoboken multi-sport coach.”

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Written by:

Victoria is HG's Editorial Assistant and Social Media Coordinator for the Hoboken Historical Museum + Fire Department Museum. She is a fourth-generation Hoboken native, BNR in the Mile Square, and Jersey City. Through playing softball in town for fourteen years, playing the trumpet for the Hoboken High School Redwings Band, and graduating from New Jersey City University, these two cities have a special place in her heart. When she isn’t Style Assisting or volunteering at Symposia Bookstore, she’s exploring everything the Concrete Jungle has to offer. You can catch her at art exhibitions, local festivities, traveling, diving into a new book, thrifting, or indulging in some form of arts and crafts.