John P. Washington was born in Newark, New Jersey on July 18, 1908. His parents were Frank and Mary; in addition they had daughters Mary and Anna, and sons Thomas, Francis, Leo and Edmund. In 1914, John was enrolled at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Elementary School. In those days, times were rough for a poor immigrant family, but John helped out; he took a newspaper route to help his mother with extra money. John was active in sports and he also began piano lessons. He loved music and sang in the church choir. When he entered seventh grade, he felt strongly about becoming a priest…during the previous year, he became an altar boy and his priestly destiny was in process.
John entered Seton Hall in South Orange, New Jersey to complete his high school and college courses in preparation for the priesthood. He graduated in 1931 with an A.B. degree. He entered Immaculate Conception Seminary in Darlington, New Jersey and received his minor orders on May 26, 1933. John excelled in the seminary, was a sub deacon at all the solemn masses, and later became a deacon on December 25, 1934. John was elected prefect of his class and was ordained a priest on June 15, 1935.
Father Washington’s first parish was at St. Genevieve’s in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and then he served at St. Venantius for a year. In 1938, he was assigned to St. Stephen’s in Arlington, New Jersey. Shortly after the Pearl Harbor attack of December 7, 1941, he received his appointment as a chaplain in the United States Army. Father Washington went on active duty May 9, 1942. He was named Chief of the Chaplains Reserve Pool, in Ft. Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. In June 1942, he was assigned to the 76th Infantry Division in Ft. George Meade, Maryland. In November 1942, he reported to Camp Myles Standish in Taunton, Massachusetts and met Chaplains Fox, Goode and Poling at Chaplains School at Harvard.
Father Washington boarded the U.S.A.T. Dorchester at the Embarkation Camp at Boston Harbor in January 1943 en route to Greenland. Chaplain Washington was killed in action on February 3, 1943, when the Dorchester was sunk by a German U-boat. Chaplain Washington was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart and Distinguished Service Cross.