WHEN Beemon Johnson arrived in Philadelphia to host a morning radio show in the early '80s, he wanted to learn about the city.
"He wanted to know who his listeners were," said Marsha Perry, a longtime friend. "He wanted to find out what they needed so he could connect with them."
Beemon, whose popular show on Power 99 WUSL-FM was called "Beej in the Morning," also wanted to help his adopted city beyond just being entertaining. He made personal appearances and worked in community betterment activities.
For instance, in the mid-'80s he learned about activist Minnie Moore-Johnson's plan to provide meals of turkey with all the trimmings to needy families on Thanksgiving.
Beemon didn't just broadcast her appeal for food and volunteers, he sought her out and helped her deliver the turkeys.
Beemon James Johnson III, whose career in radio ranged from his hometown in Columbus, Ohio, to Philadelphia, New York City and Washington, D.C., and several points in the South, New England and New Jersey, died June 28 of heart failure. He was 63 and lived in Saratoga, Montgomery County.
When he arrived in Philadelphia, Beemon found himself playing country-and-western music on an afternoon show for WUSL-FM. Country music was familiar to him; it was popular in Ohio.
But he really blossomed when the station became Power 99, featuring urban contemporary music, and he took the 5:30 a.m. time slot.
It was an era when a disc jockey could take liberties with the music program. If he liked a certain song, he could say, "I think I'll play that again," and get away with it.
He incorporated skits and routines along with playing music. He would adopt certain personalities, such as "the Reverend" and "Aunt Bunny." He was also "Uncle Beej" and the "Breakfast Champion." He made birthday calls to listeners and indulged in various antics that were pioneering at the time and later were copied by other disc jockeys.
And he got out into the community. He hit the streets, met with people, spoke before organizations and generally made himself and his station known.
One of his antics was to carry on a "romance" with Wendy "Lady B" Clark, a rapper and radio personality who started with WHAT, then moved to Power 99.
He announced that he was going to propose to her on the air. It was a hit with listeners, but it was just a stunt.
Beemon became the No. 2-rated morning jock in the city in the '80s, right behind John DeBella of WMMR-FM.
But trouble was brewing. Beemon was chronically late for work, and was disciplined a few times. Then on Jan. 9, 1987, when he didn't show up for his 5:30 a.m. shift, management had had enough.
General manager Bruce Holberg said that when he reached Beemon that day, Beemon told him he had "overslept."
Beemon and Power 99 "severed" their relationship, as management put it. No reason was given. Management said only that Beemon would "explore other opportunities."
"I'm sad to see Beej go," Holberg said. "Under our direction, and given his ability, he was able to blossom into a bona-fide radio personality.
"That word is thrown around a lot, but very few people deserve it. He does. It just got to the point where we both agreed that it was time for him to move on."
Marsha Perry said it was true that Beemon was frequently late, but attributed it to the schedule he kept.
"He was often out late at night doing something for the city," she said. "He never got enough sleep."
But Beemon wasn't through with Philadelphia. From Power 99, he went to WRKS-FM in New York, then to Hot 100 in Washington, D.C., before returning to Philadelphia in 1991 to take over the morning time slot at WDAS-FM.
He retired from radio after a couple of years at WDAS and moved to Atlanta, then lived for a time in Wilmington, N.C., and in Ohio before returning to the Philadelphia area.
Beemon suffered from a number of chronic health issues over the years, including diabetes and heart disease. Diabetes eventually cost him his sight and one leg.
But nothing seemed to interfere with his interest in helping people, especially the youth.
His sister, Idreesa Phillips, with whom he lived in Saratoga, said she would find him out on the porch surrounded by boys. He would urge them to stay in school and gave them advice on how to make it in American society.
And they listened to him. He had that kind of caring personality.
Beemon actually started his radio career as a teenager in his native Columbus, Ohio. He graduated from Ohio State University, and did a tour in the Navy.
After his discharge, he worked at radio stations in Gulfport, Miss.; Baton Rouge, La.; Hartford, Conn.; and Trenton before arriving in Philadelphia.
Besides his sister, he is survived by four daughters, Stacy Renee Johnson-Stoner, Shelley Dionne Galion, Gayle Frances Perry-Johnson and Blair Jennifer Johnson; two sons, Travis Milton Johnson and Beemon James Johnson IV; three brothers, Lacy, Mitchell and Clay Johnson; another sister, Veddiann Towns; and nine grandchildren.