On Friday, Jan. 31, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center will unveil and dedicate a new official portrait of their namesake, PFC Johnson. The ceremony will be held in the front lobby of the medical center at 10 a.m. and is open to the public.
While the original portrait of PFC Johnson is a beautiful artistic rendering, it was brought to Charleston VAMC’s attention during the March 2018 commissioning of the USS Ralph Johnson that the image was not a true likeness of PFC Johnson. Through events leading up to the commissioning, the Johnson family received a copy of his official enlistment photo. Once that photo was shared with the medical center, the VA began working with the Johnson family to find an artist who would assist with a portrait in PFC Johnson’s true likeness.
In the summer of 2019, Artist-Illustrator Rick Austin, already a volunteer at the Charleston VA, offered his talents to create a new portrait of PFC Johnson. Austin worked closely with the family and the medical center for months to ensure his portrait accurately reflected PFC Johnson’s true image. In total, Austin donated more than 800 hours to the VAMC to create the portrait. Austin is a Vietnam-era Veteran, serving in the U.S. Navy, and lives locally on Folly Beach. The Ralph H. Johnson VAMC would also like to thank Jim and Laura Thompson for donating the art supplies used by Austin.
During the dedication ceremony, attendees will hear remarks from Ralph H. Johnson VAMC Acting Director Ronnie Smith, Congressman Joe Cunningham, Sister of Ralph H. Johnson, Helen Richards, and Rick Austin.