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First Person: Graduating High School At 83

Photo by Michael Lipkin

Norm Johnson, who received an honorary high school diploma as part of San Diego County's "Operation Recognition," on Feb. 8, 2017.

First Person: Graduating High School At 83


Norm Johnson, Korean War veteran


Special Feature First Person

KPBS Midday Edition's First Person series tells the stories of average and not-so-average San Diegans in their own words. Their experiences, both universal and deeply personal, offer a unique lens into the news of the day.

Norm Johnson served as a military bodyguard to General Douglas MacArthur and danced with Elvis Presley in "Jailhouse Rock." He covered the Watts riots as a reporter and founded the Mint 400 desert race in Las Vegas.

But the one accomplishment he's been waiting decades for? Graduating high school. A repeat truant, Johnson was given a choice by a truancy judge: enroll in detention school or join the military. So he dropped out of San Diego High School and enlisted with the Air Force just a few months before the Korean War broke out.

Johnson returned to San Diego last week as part of the County Board of Education's "Operation Recognition," which gives degrees to veterans and Japanese-Americans who were detained in internment camps.

As part of our First Person series, Johnson shares why getting that diploma is so important to him.

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