“It was this tie,” he wrote on Twitter. “I used to wear it on the 4th of July, but I’ve been downsizing so I decided to sell it.”
The man who offered the winning bid on it, Jaques Campher, lives in Ohio.
“So he pays me and I go to ship it,” Johnson, 49, tweeted. “And discover a couple of spots on it I didn’t notice before! So I 'fess up to the winning bidder and tell him I’ll give him a discount if he still wants the tie.”
It turned out, Campher had been searching eBay for weeks looking for the perfect tie, and he was sure Johnson’s red, white and blue one was it. Campher asked if dry cleaning the tie would work.
Johnson tweeted: “He said he really wanted it because he wanted to wear it TO HIS SWEARING IN CEREMONY TO BECOME AN AMERICAN CITIZEN.”
When Johnson read the message he paused. “I was like . . . I can’t charge him for this,” Johnson said in an interview with The Washington Post.
“I thought about it for a second and just decided to send him the tie gratis,” Johnson tweeted. " . . . I wanted him to have the tie with my congratulations on becoming a citizen.”
Campher, who is married with a 4-year-old daughter, accepted with gratitude. “I cannot explain how I feel about that,” he said in an interview. “It is a warm feeling.”
His wife, Lindsay Krasinski, 38, explained: “He got weepy when he told me about it.”
Johnson continued on Twitter: “He responded with sincere thanks, telling me he was raised by his grandparents in South Africa, and they taught him to always make sure to be frugal and repair rather than replace. He assured me he would treasure the tie for years to come. . . . I patted myself on the back for a good deed and moved on. I had more or less forgotten about it. Until a few minutes ago.”
Then: “He sent me a picture of him at the swearing in, wearing the tie!”
Johnson posted it on Twitter — and thousands of people responded, many in tears.
Campher said Johnson’s gesture was so meaningful to him, he knew he had to send a triumphant photo of himself wearing the tie and posing with his family at the federal courthouse in Columbus.
“I wanted to show him I’m using the tie and it’s great,” he said.
Johnson said he’s been surprised by all the social media attention, but he thought perhaps it touched a nerve of patriotism.
“It’s a thing that reminds us people can be kind to each other, and this is who we are,” Johnson said in an interview. “With very few exceptions, everybody in this country is an immigrant in one way or another by ancestry if nothing else.”
Campher, 41, said he was overjoyed to finally become a citizen, five years after he married his American wife. The two met and married quickly in South Africa, but they needed to be together longer, two years, for her to get a South African visa and stay in the country. He applied for a visa to live in the United States, but it would take some time to come through. So the couple lived in various countries in Latin America, had a daughter, and in 2015 moved to Ohio. Campher said he loves his adopted country.
“The people are wonderful, the country is wonderful,” said Campher who stays home to take care of his daughter and sometimes works as a driver for the Amish community in his city of Coshocton, Ohio. “I want my daughter to grow up in this wonderful country.”
Johnson, for his part, wanted to clarify one thing, an extra reason he sent Campher the tie free of charge.
“It was an American-made tie,” Johnson said. “It specified that on the back.”
This story has been updated to reflect that Johnson’s former position with the CIA is case officer.