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Moody Ltr-Johnson Award

Jerry Johnson: A Man for His Time

By Bill Moody, Former State Forester of Alabama
April 22, 2005

(Speech at a ceremony of a dedication of a site on the property of  Sylvia and James Hughes in Jerry’s memory.)

Jerry Johnson was not the kind of person who burst on the scene with great fanfare! He was a relatively quiet man and it was several weeks after I became the State Forester of Alabama before I became aware of who he was - or what he did. As I learned over the next several years, he was a giant of a man who served as the State Forester for the Soil Conservation Service.

Jerry attended Alabama Forestry Planning Committee (AFPC) meetings along with Bill Lingle, then SCS State Conservationist. Being a man of few words he seldom imposed his views on us in the meetings - but when he had a strong conviction he spoke up, and in his quiet way he was usually on point and moved the discussion forward - toward a consensus decision! I don't specifically remember the first time I became aware of Jerry Johnson's presence at these meetings. The odds are, however, that it was very likely because of some such statement he made at some meeting.

I remember later on, one day in the late 1970's, riding on a trailer at a TREASURE Forest Demonstration Field Day--I think in Pike County, sitting on a bale of hay next to me was Jerry Johnson as we made the rounds. The speaker at the last stop had not done justice to his topic, in my judgment. I mentioned this to Jerry and he said, "Bill, this forest speaks for itself! People on this tour are getting the message we want them to have. This is a great program and it is making a difference in the forests of Alabama." I think it was at that point that I started to love and respect Jerry.

As I reflect back on that time, it seems to me that our subsequent discussions on that trip were like those of two proud parents. I now know that Jerry felt as much ownership for the TREASURE Forest program as I did. He was justified in this because, just as I had, he had done everything he could to help initiate and make the program successful. In fact, he was on the committee that came up with the proposal to the AFPC that resulted in the birth of the TREASURE Forest program. In summary on this point, Jerry's leadership in SCS/NRCS and his contributions at AFPC meetings were key components to the success of the program.

There are some who make the world a better place because they were here. Jerry was one such person. It has been said that when you help others, you are reflecting God's love. Jerry reflected God's love to his fellow man in many ways. He was a devoted husband to Gloria and was a friend who never missed the opportunity to help others. From the least to the greatest!

I remember the time I visited with Jerry on the telephone near the end of his life. He was still the same sincere and pleasant man. You would have thought that he was the one who had called and was trying to cheer me up.

No memorial is too great for such a person, and I am delighted that the Hughes Family is dedicating a place in their forest in Jerry's memory. It is appropriate that this should be done by a family whose leaders are of similar beliefs and behaviors. Just about all of the above musing could have been written about James Hughes. He is a quiet person with profound views and a friend to all--and he makes the world a better place because he is here. Sylvia is his rock and he is one of mine. The Hughes family is to be commended for the thoughtfulness of this wonderful gesture.

Some days in my quiet time I like to think that at some point in the future that some part of the spirits of Jerry Johnson, James Hughes, Larkin Wade, Dan James, Bob Lentz, Tim Boyce, Gary Fortenberry, Bill Moody, and myriads of others who were, and are, responsible for the birth and life of the TREASURE Forest program ­and the subsequent national Stewardship Forest Program - will be mingled for all time in and above the magnificent forests - which make such great contributions to our beloved Alabama - and to our great Nation, The United States of America.

Now, we pause at this time and in this place and reflect on the life and works of Jerry Johnson. We take this occasion to say farewell and to express appreciation on behalf of all who were beneficiaries of his life and labors. We are proud to join with the Hughes family in dedicating this place which is to be known from this day forward as the Jerry Johnson Memorial Retreat.