Charles Bertram Johnson


C.B. Johnson, a nationally acclaimed sculptor, died Friday at his Bernal Heights home in San Francisco. He was 82.

Mr. Johnson was one of the founding members of the Artists' Cooperative on Union Street. His works in marble, steel, wood, aluminum and bronze are in public and private collections throughout the United States and Canada.

Charles Bertram Johnson, who always went by his initials, was a Georgia native who came to San Francisco in 1938. That year, during the World's Fair, he met the woman who became his wife, Louisa Saiki, an aspiring opera singer. Because she was Japanese American their marriage was forbidden by law in California, they went to Washington state and were wed there in 1940.

Mr. Johnson was a gentle, modest man of many talents. In high school in Tampa, Fla., he was a gifted football player. "They called him 'Whisker' because he whisked about, he was so fast and so good," said Mrs. Johnson. When the couple decided to adopt a Japanese war orphan, he got a job singing in the San Francisco Opera's chorus to pay for their son's passage to the United States.

In 1959, after working 10 years in what he described as a "safe, steady" job at the Post Office, he quit to concentrate on his sculpture full time. Demand for his work was so great that he was able to support his family on sales of his art.

In 1966 he bought a house believed to be the oldest in Bernal Heights and turned the basement and part of the spacious yard into a studio. When he could no longer wield heavy materials, he continued to work, making small marble busts.