Who is Andrew Johnson?
First, he is more simply made up fiction than a composite of people I’ve known or myself. Sure, I think that all fictional characters have a base somewhere in real humans, but in him I’ve tried to create a unique individual. I don’t know anyone with his background.
San Francisco police inspector Andrew Johnson was born in Chicago in 1900. His father, Reginald was the son of slaves born in Mississippi. His mother, the daughter of Irish immigrants from Monaghan. Both went to Chicago seeking a better life. Reginald followed the blues movement from the Mississippi Delta and Mary’s father looking for a relief from the “No Irish need apply” influence in New York.
Key events in shaping Andrew’s becoming a police office were two- fold. His grandfather on his mother’s side was a cop, but disapproved of his daughter marrying a black musician and banished her from the family. Andrew as an adult somehow felt a need to gain the approval of his long dead grandfather. But the main driving force was the gangland shooting of his father who was a heroin addict and street dealer. South side murders of known heroin dealers were often not investigated with any diligence.
But even more, the cops in the area were on gangland payrolls to protect the drug suppliers.
Andrew doesn’t like dirty cops.
Although Johnson looks mostly black, the white influence in his background is apparent and he senses an alienation from both of those cultures. Although he finds a small degree of acceptance with the Italians in North Beach, he has a sense of social isolation.
He has a problem with excessiveness. Although he finds times of stability and moderation there is always a ticking bomb of heavy drinking and cheap sex. He hates that part of himself, so there is an undercurrent of his personal roller coaster always present. Since his father was addicted to drugs and his mother essentially drank herself to death after his father was killed, he fears becoming like them.
Once someone is a friend getting through his thick barriers he is intensely loyal and will go to infinite lengths to help a friend.
He’s pretty big, 6”3’ at about 220 pounds with a middle -age paunch. His partner Chuck Camozzi has nick-named him “dog lips” because his are so thin, noticeably so for a black man.
I try to keep these all things in mind when having him deal with various story situations.