The other day I had the pleasure of attending the 90th birthday celebration for Dr. Jerry C. Johnson, Sr.
Dr. Johnson was LeMoyne-Owen College's coach for several different sports and taught for forty six years. Fellow alumni Stanley Dentley and Jesse Chatman of LOC thought that Johnson didn't receive the proper farewell when he retired in 2005 and felt his upcoming 90th birthday was an opportunity to make up for that faux pas and make up they did! If my math was correct there was around 1,200 guests at the birthday party held at the Holiday Inn Select Memphis on Brooks Road.
Coach Johnson accomplishments and honors are numerous. In his illustrious career, he has to his credit, the 1975 NCAA Division III Championship, five SIAC Championships, five Championship titles in the former Volunteer State Athletic Conference, plus many NCAA regional play offs. Johnson was ranked first among active NCAA Division II coaches with 821 wins in 46 seasons and is one of just six NCAA men’s basketball coaches who have won more than 800 games.
Councilman Myron Lowery was in true form as the Master of Ceremony. He provided the right amount of humor and kept the event moving at a good pace.
Those who spoke included Congressman Steve Cohen who made no bones about it that he was no basketball star. Mayor Herenton blamed Johnson for his arrogant nature. All jokes aside it was nice seeing the Mayor relaxed and all smiles. Council members Barbara Swearengen Ware and Edmund Ford, Jr. both graciously paid tribute to a man who has served this City well. They completed their kind words by echoing Mayor Herenton's proclamation proclaiming Friday, June 20, 2008 as Dr. Jerry C. Johnson Sr. Day in the City of Memphis.
The profit from the sale of the dinner tickets will go to the newly formed Jerry C. Johnson Scholarship Program which provides scholarship opportunities for student athletes at LeMoyne-Owen College.
I would be remissed if I failed to mention two other people who played an important role in this event and that was Robert Lipscomb Chairman of LOC Board of Trustees and Jeffery Higgs, president of LOC-CDC; the nonprofit arm of the college which works in developing the community around the college. No two individuals could care more about LeMoyne-Owen and the South Memphis community.