The Delaware Afro-American Sports Hall of Fame inducted 11 new members Saturday in a ceremony at the Modern Maturity Center in Dover. Among the inductees was Smyrna resident and Town Councilman Robert Johnson.
Johnson said it feels great to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“You live your life and you do things you never really think about,” Johnson said. “You realize you’re leaving a legacy for your children. More so than anything this is something for your children to look up to. It felt good.”
Johnson graduated from Smyrna High School in 1971. He played basketball, track and baseball as an Eagle, and his accomplishments are across the board.
Johnson was the first individual in school history to score over 1,000 points in basketball. He scored a total of 1,253 points, which prompted his selection as one of the All-Time Greatest Basketball Players in Delaware’s Henlopen Conference. He earned Second Team All-State honors in 1971 and First Team All-Henlopen Conference honors from 1968 to 1971.
Johnson was also an individual state track champion. His junior year, Johnson won state titles for high hurdles, triple jump and long jump. His senior year, Johnson won titles for high hurdles, low hurdles and triple jump.
Johnson continued to play sports at Delaware State College. He was on the baseball team, swimming team and basketball team. He became an All-MEAC swimmer and an All-Star baseball pitcher. Johnson helped start the swimming team at DSC. He quit playing basketball after one year to concentrate on baseball.
“I thought I was a good basketball player but didn’t think I was good enough to go to the pros,” Johnson said. “I realized with baseball I probably had a good shot, at least a better shot at going to the pros.”
As life would have it, becoming a professional baseball player wasn’t in the cards for Johnson. He tried out for the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Diego Padres but was unsuccessful due to an old shoulder injury.
“My junior year a piece of glass went into my shoulder and split it. My senior year I did the best I could and tried out but I knew my arm wasn’t there anymore,” Johnson said. “I played semi-pro for a couple of years. I played for the Canada Dry team and then played a year for a team in Philadelphia but my arm couldn’t handle the stress. I just didn’t want to chance it.”
Over the years Johnson – an accountant for the state – has continued to play sports. His favorite sport was bowling but he’s no longer able to play; he has rolled three perfect games. He plays golf and practices martial arts, and has also coached in the past.
His favorite memories from over the years vary from his 1,000th point in basketball to his accomplishments in baseball, including pitching the first game of a double header and then coming in as a relief pitcher in the second game.
Johnson’s family, including his two children, attended the Hall of Fame induction Saturday night. He was previously honored by Smyrna Town Council for his impending induction.
“I was surprised but it felt good,” Johnson said regarding council honoring him.