On This Day: Johnny Cash Receives Honorary Doctorate Degree in 1976

by Madison Miller

Johnny Cash may not have gone to college himself, but that didn’t stop him from earning a few degrees during his career.

Right after high school, he enlisted in the United States Air Force amidst the Korean War. In fact, while he was serving, this was where he happened to buy his very first guitar. From a small band with his friends called the Barbarians to then selling appliances door-to-door to try to make it in music to eventually recording hits, Cash had an interesting path to stardom.

Johnny Cash’s Degrees and Awards

Somewhere along the way, universities and colleges began to honor the Man in Black with different kinds of honors and awards.

On this day 45 years ago, Cash was given an honorary degree from National University in San Diego, California. It was a Doctorate of Humans Letters. He had also been given a Doctor of Humanities degree from Gardner-Webb in 1971. The school posted a photo album that shows Cash at the commencement.

According to The Boot, Cash was alongside his wife, June Carter Cash, as well as his four daughters as he went to accept the degree during the National University ceremony. The mayor of San Diego also declared that day to be National Johnny Cash Day.

While his career still had a lot more to offer in 1976, Cash had already created an unmatchable legacy. He was about to release his song “One Piece at a Time” when he received the honor. This is the title track off his 54th album, which also happened to be his last No.1 hit. Cash had racked up six Grammys, six CMA Awards, as well as two ACM Awards at this point.

Johnny Cash had been given many awards and honors throughout his life, as well as after he passed away. He was a part of several different halls of fame. Some of which include the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Memphis Hall of Fame.

In addition, the artist had been given a National Medal of Arts, a Horatio Alger Award, a Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement, as well as Kennedy Center Honors. The Jewish National Fund presented him the Shalom Peace Award in 1986.

Cash Was an Ordained Minister

Besides releasing 13 No.1 hits and 91 albums, Johnny Cash had also taken the time to become an ordained minister.

Throughout the 1960s Cash had been known for his rebellious, outlaw image in the media. He was known for his encounters with the police after driving under the influence or smashing up a hotel room. In fact, he even dragged a mic across the footlights of the Grand Ole Opry stage. This is the most famous and beloved stage in country music, which means Cash had created quite the controversy.

According to Biography.com, Cash had suffered extensively from drug abuse. It wasn’t until he married June Carter Cash that he started to take a deeper look at his rebellious life. He began to turn to his Christian roots. He studied for over two years and earned a degree in theology, which led him to become an ordained minister in the late 1970s.

Cash never was a marshal at a congregation or played any real role in a church service. However, when his daughter Kelly got married, he presided at the wedding.