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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

John D. Johnson, R. I. P.

[The Clarion-Ledger ran this letter on October 5, 2002. Similar versions ran in The Natchez Democrat and the Oxford Eagle at about the same time.]

I noted with shock and sadness ("Johnson, 55, former 'C-L' editor, dies," September 15) the passing of my old friend John Johnson, Ole Miss journalism professor and former executive editor of The Clarion-Ledger.

I knew him "when."

At Natchez-Adams High School in 1964, Johnny and I paid a price for our love of baseball. We were library assistants, and all World Series games were then played in the afternoon. He had brought a small transistor radio, so we repaired to the back of the library to listen to the game. (He rooted for the Cardinals and I for the Yankees.)

The next day, the librarian, who clearly was not a baseball fan, informed us that we were being transferred to the physical education class.

Years later, I was not surprised to learn that Johnny's baseball card collection numbered in the thousands.

His father, prominent Natchez attorney Forrest Johnson, founded a weekly newspaper, the Miss-Lou Observer. It was here that Johnny gained his first real journalistic experience; I had the privilege of writing a little column for this paper.

His father was unpopular with many whites because he had a large black clientele. Mr. Johnson represented all his clients vigorously-- whether they were able to pay him or not.

Johnny and his father had a vision of equal opportunity for all Mississippians long before most of the rest of us did.

A gentle soul who seldom spoke up in class, Johnny had a history teacher who hated President Kennedy. One day Larry Abrams, sitting in the front of the class, criticized Gov. Ross Barnett; the teacher [Flossie Klotz] told Larry that if he didn't like the state government, maybe he should get out of Mississippi.

From the back of the room came Johnny's voice: "If you don't like the national government, maybe you should get out of the country!"

Johnny, you left us much too soon.


Blogger Michael Morrison said...

Good story!
Question authority, even if said authority is a teacher.
And equal opportunity is still an ideal to be pursued, and it is best acquired in a free country.
Thank you for publishing this obituary.

Mon Jun 27, 11:00:00 AM CDT  
Anonymous Carol Shuman said...

You were right about Johnny, and a lot, lot more.

Fri Oct 28, 02:03:00 PM CDT  

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