Born Nov. 30, 1927, in Helena, Ark., to the late Willie and Sally Benford Johnson, he was a "man with a contagious smile, unique heart and intelligence who wore many hats," recalled his daughter. Johnson was a minister, civic leader, member of NAACP, the Masons and a farm laborer for J. Handy Moore Farms for over 30 years, as well as a truck driver.
Johnson served as mayor of Haywood City from 1975-1992. During his tenure, he was instrumental in getting the community officially named. He also helped get grants which were used to improve and rebuild housing as well as getting the streets paved and a water system.
During the late '60s and early '70s, he was a liaison for the community working with the local school district. According to his family, he worked diligently and the school finally allowed all African-American girls to be cheerleaders. He also convinced the school to set up a bus system that included them picking up and dropping off children who were involved in extracurricular activities. He was very involved in his children's education and all are now productive adults.
A member of New Morning Star Baptist Church in Haywood City, he "loved God, the ministry and music," said a family member. He organized a male group "The Spiritual Nightngals" who sang on the radio on Sunday mornings. He later formed the "Johnsonairs" who still sing today.
He pastored New Hope MB Church in Pinhook for over 20 years, as well as Ollie Grove MB Church in Wyatt. He made great improvements during service. While Ollie Grove sat on a levee, he envisioned a move closer to the members, a family member recalled. In the late '90s, a new church was built in Wyatt, through his and the effort of many friends.
"Rev. Johnson will be greatly missed. His love for others was seen by all and especially his grandchildren, who along with his children and wife, have taken care of him during his illness," said his daughter.
He is survived by his wife, Helen Johnson; four sons, James and Vanessa Johnson, JReece and Cora Johnson, Melvin and Bridgett Johnson and Paul and Nicole Johnson; daughters, Rosemary Owens, Revs. Bridgett and Melvin Williams, Sylvia and Frank Ellis, Pam and Lester Gillespie, Pvt. Katherine Johnson and Lashell Johnson.
Visitation will be from 4-6 p.m. today at the Williams Funeral Home in Charleston. Funeral will be at 2 p.m. Saturday at Greers Chapel MB Church in Sikeston.