Coach Walter Lee Johnson

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, October 3, 2013


Coach Walter Lee Johnson, who made legendary footprints in the fertile soil of Franklinton, passed away Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013.

He was born in Allen Parish on March 1, 1927, to Robert and Birtee Johnson, who raised him, his brother Leroy and their sister Gwendolyn Marie in Oakdale. His parents and both of his siblings preceded him in death.

His education began at Allen Parish Training School in Oakdale, and he theN entered Southern University in Baton Rouge, where he met his lifetime love and companion, Myrtle C. Dyson.

W.L.’s education was interrupted by his service as a medical technician in the U.S. Army during World War II. After his discharge, he returned to Southern to complete his education, while also lettering in baseball, football and track. He graduated with a degree in health and physical education and recreation.

He married Myrtle, the love of his life, on Aug. 22, 1948, and together they created a wonderful life for their only child, Vincent Tyrone, who was born on Dec. 24, 1949.

The family moved to Franklinton in 1951, where W.L. was employed as a teacher and coach at the Washington Parish Training School. In addition to teaching, he also coached football and basketball. Through the years, Coach Johnson and the athletic program grew, and in 1955, the Washington Parish High School Tigers played in the state championship.

Post integration, Coach led his team to winning records for basketball and football. His monumental determination and strength endeared him in the hearts and minds of the Franklinton Com-munity.

In 1965, while working full time, coaching and being a full-time father and husband, Coach completed his master’s degree at the University of Colorado. He received his specialist degree in 1973 from Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, making history as the first black man to earn this education degree at Southeastern.

Coach Johnson continued to use his talents to nurture and support the lives of the students he touched. He served two consecutive terms as National President of the Southern University National Alumni Federation, he was a life member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and a 32nd Degree Mason. He was a faithful Sunday school teacher and administrative council chairman, and served on the Trustee and Finance Boards at Winan United Methodist Church, as well as serving for more than 50 years as president of the Washington Parish Southern University Alumni organization. He served as the first black principal of Franklinton High School.

In addition, he was chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission of Franklinton, a member of the Franklinton Chamber of Commerce, a charter member and past president of Kiwanis of Franklinton and also a past president of Otis Burris American Legion Post No. 537. He was director of Winan Child Care Food Program, a member of the Franklinton Habitat for Humanity, an assistant scoutmaster with Boy Scout Troop 49 and financial secretary of Franklinton Area Rod and Gun Club.

Coach Johnson was inducted into the Southern University Hall of Fame for football, baseball and track and field. He also received the Leon G. Netterville Award, the highest honor an SU graduate can achieve. He was also honored as a “Living Legend” at Southern.

His life will forever be cherished by his wife of 64 years, Myrtle, and his son, Dr. Vincent T. (Ruth) Johnson; his grandchildren, Vincent II (Rachael) Johnson, Kasey (Christopher) Morgan, David (Katina) Price, Niani Magee and Henry Price; his great-grandchildren, Hunter, Cree, Phoebe, Thalia, Kristen, Courtney, Cierra, Jada, Imanee, and David; and his faithful godchildren, Kewanda August and Cecealine Tate.

He also christened Chaka Walters and Stevie Thompson, and he was graciously adopted by the Fortenberry Family of Tylertown, Miss.

His life will continue to be celebrated by the many young people who have been touched and encouraged to excellence by his example and support.

Visitation will be Friday, Oct. 4 at Crain and Sons Funeral Home, 2000 Washington St. in Franklinton, from 3-7 p.m.

The funeral service will take place at 11 a.m. in the R. W. Johnson Auditorium, 610 T.W. Barker Drive in Franklinton, with Pastor LaSheena Simmons officiating. Interment will follow at Winan Cemetery in Franklinton.

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