Longtime educator dies

Published 12:03 am Friday, August 5, 2011

NATCHEZ — A strict disciplinarian, a great competitor and a person who was quick to correct a mistake — that’s just one side of Freddie L. Johnson’s personality, according to his friends and coworkers.

The other side is a selfless, compassionate, loving individual who proudly served Natchez-Adams County schools for more than 37 years, they said.

Johnson, who died July 31 at age 87, was a “perfect role model,” at least to Greg West, who said he met Johnson when Johnson was his principal at Sadie V. Thompson in the mid-1970s.

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“The things I desire to do in life, either he has done them or he has given me advice that would help me be successful,” West said.

West said he became close to Johnson when the two began attending the same church, Murray Temple Church of God and Christ, in 1984. Johnson was a deacon when West was appointed a junior deacon.

“After 1992, our current pastor, Elder Elijah Lewis, upgraded me to be a senior deacon,” West said. “From that time until now, (Johnson) has given me, by word and example, more advice on how to be a deacon than I could have ever read in a book.”

Those who worked with Johnson during his years in the Natchez-Adams County school system said they, too, learned a lot from him.

“He was a great man, and he helped me in any way he could,” said Roy Youngblood, 71, who taught under Johnson at Sadie V. Thompson. “He was a winner, and he liked to compete.”

Youngblood said Johnson had a great ability to lead a staff and described him as a point-blank disciplinarian.

“I was scared of him when I first met him,” he said. “He was 6’4” or 6’5”, and whether you got a job depended on what he said.

“He was direct and to the point, but he was a great man.”

Hilda Little, 76, who taught in the Natchez Public School System for 37 years before retired in 1969, said she worked for Johnson at the former Northside Elementary School (now Frazier Primary School).

“Mr. Johnson was a very special person during my teaching career,” she said. “He was a very smart educator, who truly had that welfare of the children in mind, and we respected him very much, because he was a person who demanded respect in the way that he carried himself.

“He was a person with very high morals, and he will be missed very much.”

Johnson began his career at Brumfield High School in the early 1950s, and he moved to Sadie V. Thompson Middle School, where he served as the assistant principal and the athletic director from 1953-1961, when he moved back to Brumfield.

In his second term at Brumfield, he served as principal until he became the principal at Northside Elementary School when it opened in 1964. He served as principal of the Anchorage School from 1967-1970 until he went back to Thompson in 1970.

West said Johnson was a selfless person, and when the new Murray Temple building was built, Johnson and his wife, Leola, purchased the land next to the new building so the church would be able to have a parking lot.

“They were proud of that,” he said.

Murray Temple’s pastor, Elijah Lewis Sr., said Johnson is already missed.

“It’s hurtful to lose key people in the church,” he said. “He was a great family man, and he left a great legacy.”

Johnson was also survived by five children, Freddie Jr., Clement, DeAndrea, Sharon and Aleshia. Services will be 11 a.m. today at Prayer Tower Church of God in Christ on Country Club Drive.