National Contest Will Honor WWI Hero (The Enterprise)

Originally appeared on The Enterprise: Serving Cape Cod Communities Since 1895.

Ferris Coin Co. of Albany, New York, is seeking artists from across the nation to design a silver coin-shaped medallion honoring African American World War I hero Sergeant Henry Johnson.

The company is offering two prizes of $1,000 each to the winning designs for the obverse and reverse sides of a 1.5-inch (39-millimeter) coin-shaped silver medallion.

The purpose for commissioning the medallion is to raise money for the 369th Veteran’s Association and to inspire more Americans to learn the story of Sgt. Johnson, who enlisted in the first African American unit in the US Army to engage in combat in World War I.

In May 1918 Sgt. Johnson fought off a German raid in hand-to-hand combat, saving the life of a fellow soldier. For his bravery, he received France’s highest award for valor, becoming the first American to receive this distinction. Sgt. Johnson returned to Albany in 1919. Despite having been wounded 21 times, he received no honors from his home country and no pension. He died, destitute in 1929. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Although this contest is not affiliated with the US Mint, it is modeled after the mint’s longstanding tradition of coin design competitions to recognize important figures and events in the nation’s history.

The obverse, or front, of the coin-shaped medallion should feature an accurate likeness of Sgt. Henry Johnson based on historical photographs in the public domain and should feature the following inscriptions: “Sgt. Henry Johnson,” “Enlisted 05 JUN 1917” and “Albany, NY.” The design for the reverse side is more open to artistic expression; according to the guidelines, artists should clearly and creatively interpret concepts such as duty, honor, sacrifice or civic responsibility. Artists are further encouraged to symbolize a connection between Johnson’s commitment to duty and the civic duty each person shares today in order to inspire forward thinking about everyone’s community involvement.

The submission deadline is Tuesday, April 17. Contestants must be 18 or older to qualify. For official rules and design requirements visit Send questions to

Entries will be evaluated by a jury composed of professional artists and a representative of the 369th Veteran’s Association.

Five hundred silver coin-shaped medallions will be available for purchase this summer. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the 369th Veteran’s Association Inc., Albany District, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

Drake Nix