James Ltr-Johnson Award
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
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.