Hometown fans gather to watch ‘Survivor’ hopeful

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 17, 2003

LIBERTY &045; Despite a fourth-place finish in the CBS Survivor: Pearl Islands series, Liberty native Darrah Johnson was still a winner among a crowd of hometown fans who gathered to watch the show’s final episode Sunday night.

&uot;We are very proud of her &045; disappointed that she was voted off after going this far, but it’s been great for this whole community,&uot; said Clay Campbell, Darrah’s former teacher and coach at Amite School Center.

Campbell was among about 200 of Darrah’s friends and former teachers who watched the show unfold on a big-screen TV in the ASC gymnasium. A CBS television affiliate from Jackson filmed the event.

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But the hopes of her most loyal supporters were dashed when Darrah was voted off at tribal council after a quiz challenge allowed the jury to seize the immunity belt she had held for three previous episodes.

Darrah’s former college roommate, Sally Toler, said other contestants overlooked Darrah’s competitive nature.

&uot;I was surprised they said she was a physical threat at the very end. I think they underestimated her,&uot; Toler said.

The former ASC cheerleader and state championship softball player played the game well, keeping a low profile in the early going and outlasting other contestants with her wits and athleticism in the later episodes.

Liberty Mayor Ricky Stratton said Darrah’s performance on the show had united the community.

&uot;It’s brought the people in this town together. Darrah told her parents we wouldn’t be ashamed of her, and we are all very proud,&uot; Stratton said.

Many of the fans at the gym sported black T-shirts with the Survivor logo and Darrah’s name printed on the front.

A drive-in near the school boasted a sign wishing Darrah good luck and inviting fans to join a Survivor party after the show.