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Reverend Doctor James Lawrence Johnson, age 83 of Dothan, Alabama departed this earthly life on November 11, 2022.
Public visitation will be held on Friday, November 18, 2022 from 4:00 PM to 6:00 PM at the Funeral Home.
A Celebration of life will be held on Saturday, November 19, 2022 at 12:00 noon at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church; 1110 Allen Road, Dothan, Alabama 36303 with burial immediately following at Gates of Heaven Cemetery; 2106 Starling Road, Dothan, Alabama 36303 under the direction of the caring staff of Scott's Chapel Hill Mortuary "Because We Care".
“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and He delighteth in his way.” Psalm 37:23
Rev. Dr. James Lawrence Johnson was called home by our Heavenly Father at 12:38 pm on Friday, November 11, 2022 at Flowers Hospital in Dothan, AL with his wife of 58 years, Alma, and youngest son, Ron, by his side.
Rev. Dr. Johnson was born on March 13, 1939 in Gordon, AL to the late Duck Johnson and the late Perleane (McNeil) Johnson of Gordon, AL. He was greeted in glory by his four siblings - Lureatha (Johnson) Redding of New York City, NY; Rev. Fred Wilson of Gordon, AL; Jerry D. Johnson of Atlanta, GA and C J Johnson of Rosedale, NY.
He leaves to cherish his loving memory his beautiful wife, Alma of Dothan, AL; son, Ron Johnson of Phoenix, AZ; his daughter-in-law, Melanie (Pace) Johnson of Houston, TX; grandchildren Austin and Cameron Johnson of Houston, TX; brothers/sisters in-law Charles (Daisy) McLoyd of Spring Valley, NY; Rev. Calvin (Vivian) McLoyd of Steubenville, OH; Raymond McLoyd of Jamaica, NY; Hettie (McLoyd) Corker of Jamaica, NY and Annette (McLoyd) Johnson of Amityville, NY; a host of nephews, nieces, cousins, God-children, fraternity Brothers and friends.
Rev. Dr. Johnson was united in Holy Matrimony to his soul mate and best friend, Alma Jean (McLoyd) Johnson on June 19, 1964 in New York City, New York. They were blessed with two sons, the late Bruce Lawrence Johnson of Houston, TX and Ron James Johnson of Phoenix, AZ.
After graduating from Ashford Colored High School (Ashford, AL), Rev. Dr. Johnson graduated from Alabama State College (now Alabama State University) with a Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education on August 11, 1961, and a Master of Education from the School of Graduate Studies in August 1974 . While at Alabama State, he played football, joined Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. (Gamma Beta Chapter) in 1960 and participated in civil rights activist groups. Later in life, Rev. Dr. Johnson graduated from Bethany Divinity College and Seminary in Dothan, AL as a Doctor of Ministry on June 5, 2003.
After graduating from Alabama State, Rev. Dr. Johnson started his education career teaching History and coaching sports at Abbeville High School (1961-1963), Columbia Colored High School (1963-1971); then Rehobeth High School (1971-1986). He achieved many firsts including becoming the first Black head basketball coach in Rehobeth's history and an assistant football coach. When attempting to progress his career to the education administration ranks, the Houston County Board of Education continually established barriers which led to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) taking up his case (Civil Action NO. 85-T-1440-S, James L. Johnson (Plaintiff) v. Houston County Board of Education, et al (Defendants)) as they determined the barriers were race-based. In a landmark decision that paved the way for generations of Black administrators in the Houston County School system, Judge Myron H. Thompson of the United States District Court ruled in favor of Rev. Dr. Johnson, on April 23, 1986 and his education administration career began in the 1986-1987 school year. Rev. Dr. Johnson tells the story of this in his memoir as a testimony of God’s faithfulness.
“The first day of my court date, that still voice would not let me leave home without my bible. Before getting out of my car at the courthouse, the voice told me to open my bible, I obeyed and there was a petition for God's intervention on the very page I opened my bible to, on a verse I had never seen. It was Psalm 35 and I stood outside of my car and praised God for his protection. I told my attorney, Theron Stokes, God had already determined the outcome.” - Rev. Dr. James L Johnson
Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me. - Psalm 35:1
Rev. Dr. Johnson was assigned to Ashford High School, Ashford, AL and became their first Black assistant principal in 1986 where he was responsible for school discipline. He was known for being fair and tough, and applied the conduct rules uniformly and without bias, even in the face of heavy racial opposition. He quickly earned the respect of the staff, students, and parents as he was able to dramatically improve discipline and created an environment conducive for teaching and learning.
On July 1, 1987, Rev. Dr. Johnson was promoted and became the first Black principal of Wicksburg High School. He transformed it from one of the worst performing academic schools in the state, to one of the top performing, public or private, academic schools in the state. The academic performance of the school was so consistently high, that it generated economic growth for the Wicksburg community through a housing construction increase that was centered around Rev. Dr. Johnson’s God-ordered efforts to build and sustain an outstanding academic institution. To start his tenure, the Houston County Board of Education provided him with no resources, no administrative staff, no custodial staff, and no funding. The prior administration left the school ransacked. Throughout his tenure, the Houston County Board of Education harassed Rev. Dr. Johnson with lawsuits and God’s shield protected him every time. Rev. Dr. Johnson tells the story of this in his memoir as a testimony.
“…if you are sent by The God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, you have all you need. I feel honored to be called by God to bear witness and I pray that my service will give the highest praise to my God.” - Rev. Dr. James L Johnson
Along with his wife, Mrs. Alma Johnson, Rev. Dr. Johnson influenced and encouraged generations of students in the Houston County School System, and Dothan City Schools System for over 30 years. They share a love for teaching and encouraging everyone around them to reach their fullest potential.
As a young child, Rev. Dr. Johnson accepted Christ and was baptized at, and grew up in, Philadelphia Baptist Church in Gordon, AL. For over 40 years, he was a very active member of the New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church. Rev. Dr. Johnson was ordained as a Deacon of the church under past pastor the late Rev. Tony Thompson, Jr., and served as Chair of the Trustee Ministry and the Bus Ministry. Men's Sunday School Class number 1 was blessed to have Rev. Dr. Johnson as its teacher for many years. Later, God called Rev. Dr. Johnson to preach the Gospel, and he preached his first sermon on February 13, 1994 at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church. He was licensed and ordained by past pastor Rev. Eugene Leonard, Sr. and joined New Bethel's Ministerial Staff. Rev. Dr. Johnson also devoted his service to the St. Mary District Association where he was appointed as the District's Missionary by District Moderator Rev. Robert Jones, and assisted the St. Mary District Ministers’ Wives group during many District Women's Convention sessions.
Friends and colleagues describe Rev. Dr. Johnson as a “honorable man” who served his community well. He served on many boards including the Dothan Planning and Zoning Commission, Dothan Area Urban League Sponsor Committee, Wiregrass Area Black Youth Leadership Council, Men's Civic Club, Wiregrass Elks Lodge, and Wiregrass Habitat for Humanity. He was a proud president of the Alabama State University alumni chapter in Dothan where he sent dozens of students to Alabama State for college.
As a Sigma Man, Rev. Dr. Johnson loved his fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma, Fraternity, Inc. and his life’s work epitomizes the fraternity’s ideals of Brotherhood, Scholarship and Service, and its motto “Culture for Service and Service for Humanity”. He served in several capacities (President, Treasurer, Program Director, etc.) at the chapter (Alpha Chi Sigma Alumni Chapter) and state (Alabama State Director of Bigger and Better Business) levels. He joined the fraternity’s Omega Chapter as a financial member for over 33 consecutive years.
A close family friend shared,
“Words cannot express what he’s done for my family and me, he’s been a father figure, a spiritual advisor and a friendly ear. He gave advice with love, respect, kindness, honesty and joy. He led with the Word and often would pull out his Bible to refer to an encouraging word.”
Steps ordered, a job well done and a legacy continues…