Trooper to become first black lieutenant |

Trooper to become first black lieutenant

by F.T. Norton
Rick Gunn/Nevada Appeal Carl Johnson of the Nevada Highway Patrol will be promoted to lieutenant today during a ceremony at the Wright Way headquarters.

Carl Johnson will become the first black lieutenant in the history of the Nevada Highway Patrol today, but beating the odds is nothing new to the former U.S. Marine who was exposed to the seedier side of life at his aunt’s home in the projects of Gary, Ind.

“There was a lot of negative going on around me – like, for instance, drugs. That’s kind of what brought in money and put food on the table at my aunt’s house,” said Johnson, 37, a Carson City resident. “There was a lot of gang violence. I remember a shootout once, and I was trying to get in someone’s house to get out of the way.”

When his mother remarried, Johnson moved back home where he formed a lasting relationship with his stepfather.

“I went through high school and decided I wanted to get out of the area and do something positive that was going to create growth in my life,” he said.

He joined the Marine Corps and during a tour in Japan met his wife, Denise, a Marine Corps journalist.

Eight years later as a sergeant and father, Johnson was training in Bridgeport when he applied for a position with the Highway Patrol.

He said he’d always wanted to be a trooper.

“I had a state trooper that lived down the street from me, and he was always out doing community service and talking to the kids. He was my first experience with a police officer,” he said.

Now 11 years later, the NHP allows Johnson and his wife, who grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., to raise their three daughters differently than they’d been raised. Johnson’s 18-year-old son lives in Gary, where Johnson’s parents still live.

“Our goal is to raise them in a better environment and help them become productive members of society,” he said.

Today’s ceremony puts Johnson’s name in the history books. He joins the rank of Sgt. Robert J. Hollimon, the first black trooper to join the force in 1968. Hollimon made history again with his promotion to sergeant. He retired in 1977.

The historic value of the promotion isn’t lost on the articulate police officer, but it’s not all he considers.

“It’s more than my being a black lieutenant; its important for me that the division has put trust in me and empowered me to take another step in my career,” he said. “It’s awesome.”

Contact F.T. Norton at or 881-1213.