From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Johnson, Laura "Dolly"

(born: 1852  -  died: 1918) 

Dolly Johnson, an African American from Kentucky, was the cook for President Benjamin Harrison. Johnson had cooked for the Harrison family in Indiana, sometime prior to their move to the White House. She was summoned to the White House by President Harrison around 1889 to replace Madame Petronard, a French chef. According to an article in the Woodland Daily Democrat, 01/09/1890, p.3, Laura [Dolly] Johnson was from Lexington, KY. She was about 37 years old and described as a mulatto, educated, and had secured a bit of wealth as a cook for Colonel John Mason Brown, according to an article in the Plaindealer. For more see S. E. Wilkins, “The president’s kitchen – African American cooks in the White House; includes recipes; Special Issue: the Untold Story of Blacks in the White House,” American Visions (February - March 1995); “Dolly the Kentucky negro cook,” Davenport Tribune, 03/07/1893; "Will cook for the President," Plaindealer, 12/20/1889, p.1; and "Mrs. Harrison's Lexington cook," The Kentucky Leader, 12/03/1889, p.2.

Additional information received by email from Yvonne Giles, 01/14/2016:

"[President] Harrison lost the next election to Grover Cleveland. Dolly worked for Cleveland for about a year, but he fired her and then tried to rehire her. Dolly refused his offer. Instead she returned to Kentucky, met and married in 1894 Ed Dandridge who was cook to the Fleischman (yeast company) family of Louisville. They eventually came to Lexington where Dolly opened restaurants in several locations in downtown Lexington. She [Dolly Johnson] died in February 1918 and was buried in No. 2; Ed died about six months later and was also buried in No. 2.  There is a large marker in Section F, row 2 with just the name "DANDRIDGE" engraved; it is between Sidney Woodard and Mary Thompson. It looks as if it may have had a tablet at one time, but the tablet is no longer there. And of course they might be buried over in Section D with Emma Bailey [Dolly Johnson's daughter] and their grave site is no longer marked.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Fayette County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Jefferson County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Lexington, Kentucky in Wikipedia.
Read about Louisville, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name


Cited in this Entry

NKAA Entry: Giles, Yvonne Y.
NKAA Entry: African Cemetery No. 2 (Lexington, KY)
NKAA Source: Woodland daily Democrat (newspaper)
NKAA Source: American visions (periodical)
NKAA Source: The Davenport tribune (newspaper)
NKAA Source: Plaindealer, The (newspaper) (Detroit)
NKAA Source: The Kentucky leader (newspaper)

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Johnson, Laura "Dolly",” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed October 30, 2020,

Last modified: 2020-03-18 16:35:17