Yosemite National Park, CA — Yosemite National Park Ranger Shelton Johnson is now an Honorary Kentucky Colonel, an honor bestowed upon him by Ernie Fletcher, the Governor of Kentucky.
Johnson is an 18-year veteran of the National Park Service and is most passionate about his work with the Buffalo Soldiers. The soldiers, of African-American descent, were sent, by horseback, to Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks in 1899, 1903, and 1904 to protect the parks and enforce park rules.
They were, in essence, some of the first park rangers in the newly created national parks. While looking through muster rolls of some of the soldiers, Johnson noticed a Ninth Cavalry Private named George Metcalf from Frankfort, Kentucky. A co-worker, Ranger Larry Montgomery, happened to be from Kentucky, and coincidentally the same town. By a stroke of fate, Ranger Montgomery not only knew this family, but worked with one of the descendants.
The family was eventually contacted and confirmed that Private Metcalf was indeed their ancestor. Ultimately, without Johnson´s efforts, the family would have never known of their connection to the early stewardship of Yosemite National Park. This sparked additional genealogical research, directed by Johnson, which sought other descendants of these soldiers in order to learn more about their history.
It is because of the discovery of the descendants in Kentucky that State Representative Derrick W. Graham nominated Johnson for the honor. Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher signed the certificate that was presented to Ranger Johnson. The award of a Kentucky Colonel is the highest honor awarded by the state of Kentucky.
Written by Sabrina Sabbagh