Ralph Henry Johnson was born on January 11, 1949 in Charleston, South Carolina. He attended Courtnay Elementary School and Simonton Jr. High School. During Ralph’s early years, Marines graduating from Boot Camp in Beaufort would ride the bus to to their new duty stations. The lay-over in Charleston provided the new Marines with an opportunity to stretch their legs with a walk down King Street. Ralph would point would point them out and tell those with him that one day he would be a United States Marine.
After middle school Ralph joined the Job Corps Program which provided technical training and a path to a High School diploma. When he turned 18, Ralph joined Marine Corps Reserve March 23, 1967, and was discharged to enlist in the regular Marine Corps on July 2, 1967. He completed his basic training in November 1967 and promoted to Private First Class (PFC) on November 1, 1967.