Ella Mae Johnson, Obama's Oldest Fan, Dies At 106, Leaving Legacy Of Compassion She died this week at 106, but just last year she made her way to Washington for the presidential inaugural. After witnessing a century of pain and progress for African-Americans, she wanted to see — with her own eyes — Barack Obama sworn in as president. Now a book will tell her story.
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Ella Mae Johnson: Her Story Was History, Too

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Ella Mae Johnson: Her Story Was History, Too

Ella Mae Johnson: Her Story Was History, Too

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, Host:

NPR's Joseph Shapiro recalls that day and her remarkable life.

JOSEPH SHAPIRO: Unidentified Man #2: Congratulations.

ELLA MAE JOHNSON: Unidentified Woman: Okay, hold on.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: The trip from Cleveland had been exhausting. She talked about what Barack Obama's presidency meant to her.

MAE JOHNSON: My hope for him is my hope for the country. If he fails, the country fails. He knows and he says, Not me, but you. Not us, but all of us.

SHAPIRO: When the galley proof for her book arrived recently, she picked it up and kissed it. She was proud that she'd leave that legacy.

PATRICIA MULCAHY: Ella Mae's real lesson is that compassion is what will get you through life.

SHAPIRO: Patricia Mulcahy is Johnson's co-writer

MULCAHY: She was orphaned when she was only four years old and literally raised by the next-door neighbors. And this incredible example of compassion, outreach, whatever you want to call it, informed the rest of her life.

SHAPIRO: Her friend Betty Miller talks about the loving letter that came from one of her two sons.

BETTY MILLER: She read it and I said, Ella Mae, do you understand it? She said, I'll try.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: Joseph Shapiro, NPR News.

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