The Oklahoma African American Educator’s Hall of Fame Induction ceremony will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 26, at the Oklahoma History Center in Oklahoma City. Career educator Jessie (J.D.) Johnson of Altus has been selected as an inductee.
Johnson was born on Sept. 23, 1930, in Wyatt, Mo. where his parents labored as field hands. At age two, his family moved to Brooksville.
During his sophomore year in high school, he relocated to Cushing to live with his uncle who thought J.D., as he was known, would earn a better education. He graduated from high school in 1949 and matriculated to Langston University. He was a proud member of the Langston Lions basketball team. In 1955, he earned a Bachelor of Science in Education degree. He later obtained a Masters in Education from Southwestern State College in Weatherford in 1975 and Counseling Certification in 1978.
Johnson’s professional career began at Altus Public Schools in 1956 when he hired as one of the first black teachers to teach at the all-black school of Lincoln High. He taught social studies and Industrial Arts and coached football, basketball and baseball at Lincoln until 1966. He seized every opportunity as a teachable moment for his students whether in the classroom or on the basketball court. He emphasized the importance for integrity, fair-play, respect, and compassion for all mankind. He led by example and always reminded his students that an individual who cannot follow surely cannot lead. From 1966 to 1974, he taught at Southeast Junior High School.
He served as a mentor to the young teachers especially minority teachers new to the profession. He also helped the minority students adjust to integration as he himself learned to survive in the unchartered waters of integration. He organized and directed summer programs for minority children for 44 years; 1956-2000. He sponsored and coached little-league softball and baseball as well as American League post-high and college. He became a foster parent to students of military families whose children wanted to remain in Altus and finish their senior year.
In addition, he made daily visits to veterans’ homes to make sure they were receiving the best care.
In 1972, he was named Jackson County Teacher of the Year. In 1973, the coaches inducted him into the Jackson County Athletic Hall of Fame. In 1974, Johnson transferred to Altus High School where he continued his legacy in the classroom until 1978 when he became the school’s counselor. After 44 years of dedicated service in education, he retired in 2000.
Former student Jake Heard said, “Segregation, racism, and various other challenges, such as limited resources, did not stop the desire that Mr. Johnson had to live out his dream as a teacher and coach. With all odds against him, he used these challenges as a lesson to shape and mold his students and athletes to strive for the best through hard work and dedication. In the words of Mr. Johnson, ‘doubt and fear will be the enemies that you will battle, but you have to believe through your hard work you can defeat them.’”
He and his wife, Fannie enjoy visiting their children and grandchildren as well as visits from former students and colleagues.
Oklahoma African American Educators Hall of Fame President, Dr. Donnie Nero encourages the public to attend this prestigious event. Organizers said that they especially look forward to seeing former students of Johnson. For more information about tickets, phone 918-698-6037 or access their web page at www.oaaehof.org.