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James Ltr-Johnson Award

Jerry Johnson: My Friend–My Confidant–My Mentor–

By Dan James, 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.)

Of course I saw Mr. Otis all the time in the gas truck. Saw Mrs. Bertie Lee when I had to go to 'the Doctors office'. Saw Jerry every once in a while. But we both lived there in the middle of Bibb County. It was a wonderful place and a wonderful time to grow up in.

Jerry and I really became "close" after I was a TREASURE FOREST LANDOWNER Just as 'The Book" says, 'a prophet is not without honor, save in his own country', and this was true even-with Jerry. The home folks knew virtually nothing of his activities, while all around Alabama, people knew about Jerry's working in the forestry arena. There may have been others that were better liked or respected more than he was, but I couldn't fill up the fingers of one hand with their names.

He genuinely loved his job! I hesitate to call it 'work', because for him it was 'a calling'. Sure he put in some long hours and some hard days. But I never saw it erase 'that smile' from his face. For you see . . . his heart was in it!

He made friends readily. Not the temporary kind of 'acquaintances', but lifelong relationships. These were based on honest, sincere, trustworthy, confident, dealings with whom ever he was involved with at the time.

I was so proud to have had a hand in recruiting Tommy Counts to come aboard the NRCS team. Jerry and Tommy were most compatible. They complimented each other. They were "good for one another". They added a considerable amount of respectability to the entire NRCS State Office.

It was a difficult task to saddle Tommy Counts with, but we could not have pulled it off with out his involvement. You see, after we (the leadership within the ATFLA) created the "Bill Moody Award" to recognize the people who had made the greatest contribution to our beloved Treasure Forest Program, Jerry Johnson was to be the recipient at the Mobile Landowner Conference. We all knew that Jerry was ill. His problem had not been fully diagnosed at the time. One thing we did know, if anybody could get Jerry to that meeting, it would be Tommy Counts. He had him there too. How proud I was to be able to supply the award for Jerry on that occasion, created by a fellow Bibb Countian.

He joined the ranks of some great Americans that night . . . the likes of W. Kelly Mosley, C.W. 'Bill' Moody, Larkin Wade, Emory Cunningham, Timothy C. Boyce, and several others. This award fit him to a "T". He wore it handsomely. It was well deserved!
We (at Calvary Baptist Church) have designated a specimen Cherrybark oak growing on the property he sold to us across Walnut Street from his original home, as 'the Jerry Johnson Oak'. It will be a fitting tribute to his memory. We surely do miss him too.