Willie H. Johnson, Jr.
Life Of Willie H. Johnson, Jr.
Willie H. Johnson, Jr., was born to Willie and Veda Johnson, June 7, 1928, in rural western Kentucky. Being raised on a farm during the Depression afforded a meager lifestyle. As his younger brother, John Andrew, said, "We were country when country was real." Some of his favorite stories concerned life on the farm with mules. Inspired in his teenage years to become a preacher of the gospel, he used to practice from the back end of a wagon while his brother sang the songs.
Due to health problems he was unable to finish high school. (A secret most of the children did not find out about until after his death. He made his wife, Martin, promise to never let his children know how little education he had. He was afraid they would use his example and not try to further their own education.) He was encouraged to attend David Lipscomb College to better prepare himself to be an evangelist. It was here he met his wife, the former Martin Louise Stephens.
While in school he accepted weekend preaching appointments. In order to be able to have enough money for train fare to his destination he would take his watch to the pawn shop and sell it. He would usually make just enough money on these occasions to get his watch "out of hock" to use next time. He said he nearly wore that watch out taking it to and from the pawn shop.
The first localized work he and his wife did was in Harrisburg, Illinois. They received $100.00 per month. At another early work, the preacher's home consisted of three rooms, a well on the back porch from which they drew their water, and an outdoor privy. Soon after they moved to this place the congregation built a nice house for them.
Willie Johnson served congregations in Illinois, Texas, Michigan, Alabama, North Carolina, and Tennessee.In 1975 he left full-time preaching to work as a juvenile officer. He still continued preaching at Mt. Pelia Church of Christ in Weakley County, Tennessee and until the time of his death at the Liberty Church of Christ near Dresden, Tennessee. His work as a juvenile officer brought him acclaim from across the state of Tennessee and the nation. In 1978 his program in Weakley County was recognized as the "Outstanding Program for Juvenile Rehabilitation" by the National Association of County Governments.
His courage and determination to work in the face of normally debilitating diseases in the last four years of his life caused him to be an inspiration to many. As one person commented, "His life was the best sermon I ever saw preached on the subject of how to handle human suffering."
At the funeral service Tom Ventimiglia, Juvenile Judge for Henry County, where he was serving at the time of his death, spoke at the funeral of his great service to young people. He said, "The youth of West and Middle Tennessee have lost a great friend." He concluded by saying, "Someone has said that a person never stands so tall as when he stoops to help a child. If that be true, Willie Johnson was 100 feet tall."
Basil Overton, who conducted the funeral service, read a most appropriate passage that fit the life of Willie Johnson had lived, 2 Timothy 3:10-4:8. He spoke of the death of Willie as a departure and then explained the nature of the Greek word translated "departure. " It is like the untying of a ship at harbor, or the removing of the yoke from the next of oxen. It is release.
The funeral service was an uplifting one as all rejoiced at the passing of a soldier of the cross to a better and happier place.
-David Johnson, Son of David Johnson, World Evangelist, May, 1985, page 14.
Directions To The Grave Of W.H. Johnson
In West Tennessee take I-40 to Exit 108, Hwy. 22, and head north around 40 miles. You will pass through Huntingdon along the way. When arriving in the city of Dresden turn right on Linden Street. Take the third left (Moore St.) and you will see the cemetery straight ahead. Go into the cemetery and head to where you see the flag pole. At the next left turn left. Once you've turned left. Alonzo Williams, another great gospel preacher in West Tennessee is buried on the left. On the right head into the section about eight to ten rows. Look for the JOHNSON monument.
Special Thanks: To Tom Childers for assisting me in bringing to light and helping me to locate and visit the grave of Willie H. Johnson. I visited the grave in June, 2007 while involved in a series of meetings at Austin's Chapel Church of Christ in Scott's Hill, Tennessee. Many thanks to Tom and his inspiration to continue producing sites like this honoring those who have blazed the trail of godliness. His site has some of this information as well as further info on the life of Alonzo Williams.
Visit Tom's Website: http://www.freed-hardeman.com