Alphonso Johnson, who served in the Army's first black paratrooper company during World War II, died Sunday in Erie County Medical Center after a brief illness. He was 79.
Born in Harlem, he graduated from Haron High School, where he was on the track team and boxed as a bantamweight.
Mr. Johnson joined the Army in 1942, becoming a cavalryman, then was picked for the 555th Parachute Infantry Company, known as the Triple Nickel. The company took part in Army parachute testing programs, then was sent to Oregon, where it was on alert for Japanese balloon bomb attacks on the West Coast. He attained the rank of sergeant.
A Buffalo resident since 1947, he worked at Bethlehem Steel Corp. and Sylvania Electric, then was self-employed as a television and radio repairman, working from a shop on Broadway and later in his home. He retired in the late 1980s.
He was a member of the 82nd Airborne Association, which named him a Trooper of the Year in 1996. He also was a member of the American Legion.
Mr. Johnson was cited by Erie County for conspicuous service during World War II and was recognized by the 555th Parachute Infantry Association for being airborne-qualified for 50 years.
He enjoyed photography and working with computers.
His wife of 50 years, Alease Mole Johnson, died in 2000.
Surviving are a daughter, Allison Kye of Buffalo; four sons, Kenneth, Ali Rasheed, Timothy Kye and Joshua, all of Buffalo; 10 grandchildren; and 15 great-grandchildren.
Services will be at noon Friday in Second Chance Ministries, 381 E. Ferry St., after viewing at 11 a.m. Burial will be in Forest Lawn.