Evelyn Johnson was once revered as one of the most outstanding guidance counselors at Marianna High School. She held an open door policy that allowed students to come any time they felt they needed to see her. Never was there a time when she was not available.
Belva Neel Free had the opportunity to not only work with Mrs. Johnson but to become very good friends with her outside the educational environment, “It’s an honor being asked to share some thoughts about Mrs. Evelyn Johnson, Mrs. J. to me. This took me back to the days when she and I were faculty members at Marianna High School. We carpooled to the Ft. Rucker branch of Troy while we were working on our Master’s degrees. Later, my career followed her to a position at the Jackson County Schools’ District office. As the Finance Director, Mrs. J. could have been very intimidating to me, the newbie. However, she was one of the first, along with Mr. Tom Melvin and Coach George Riley, to extend a word of welcome and an offer of assistance when needed. Sharing a jumbo hamburger and fries with her at Tony’s during lunch was a special pleasure. I came to know this great lady as a consummate professional who was a tremendous asset to the Jackson County Schools. Many principals, as well as Superintendents, will attest to their dependency upon her and their high level of trust in her guidance. It is also with great fondness that I recall my “basketball” connection with Mrs. J. During those times when I drove her to Chipola’s out-of-town games, our “car-talk” centered, primarily, on stories about her family, recollections of memorable basketball games, (especially the ones with Gulf Coast in the old gym), and her days of playing basketball. I learned that she loved “Bat”, Jimmy, and David unconditionally. She was fiercely supportive of Coach Johnson and that loyalty sometimes led her to share, with the basketball officials, her opinion of their performance. I was privileged to be in Kansas when Coach was inducted into the Junior College Hall of Fame, and Mrs. J was so very proud of him and happy that he was being honored in that way. It was also important to her for Coach Johnson to dress nicely for the games, as she always was, and he was quite the fashion plate. I recall one incident during which Mrs. J. had to go shopping out of necessity rather than enjoying her usual “shopping therapy.” It was high school basketball state tourney time. When the Johnson’s arrived at the hotel in Plant City, they discovered their hang-up clothes had not made the trip. That was a very uncharacteristic lapse for Mrs. J. as she usually totally had her act together! I was so honored to call Mrs. J. my friend, mentor, colleague and basketball “buddy”. She will forever remain in my memories as a person who called it as she saw it, had no time for pretense, had a generosity of which few knew, and who, very often, revealed a very soft heart.”
Charlotte Hayles Edenfield pays respect to Mrs. Johnson for her untiring efforts to assist her throughout her MHS years and beyond, “Evelyn Johnson was one of my guidance counselors while at Marianna High School. She and fellow counselor, Charlotte Key, were most helpful as I prepared my applications for college. Mrs. Johnson was very attentive and made you feel as if you were the only student she was helping. While at Auburn, I took correspondence courses from the University of Florida because I could not get them on campus in time to graduate. Mrs. Johnson was instrumental in proctoring my final exams for these courses while she worked at the county office. She is one who I will always remember as putting the student first.”
On a personal note from this writer, I was fortunate enough to be an aide to Mrs. Johnson my senior year at MHS. I graduated with her son Jimmy who she dearly loved as she did her younger son David and her husband Milton. She was the epitome of a coach’s wife, supporting his teams every step of the way. She had a heart the size of Texas when it came to her students and their needs. She had a way of spotting students heading in the wrong direction and turning them around, whether it was in school or in their personal lives. She had a very firm hand but a soft touch for all she came into contact with every day. She was truly a guidance counselor who counseled the whole child.”
Grand Ridge assistant principal and former coach Travis Blanton had the good fortune to know the personal side of Evelyn Johnson, “She was like another mother to me as I grew up on College Street along with their youngest son David. She made me many meals and washed many of Motocross jerseys for all of us when we thought that we were going to be the next motocross superstars. She was always inviting but she didn’t mind correcting our teenage boy behavior when she saw us out of line. However, she did it in a most gentle way that made you straighten up quickly. I sure do miss her. She was a great coach’s wife and a wonderful lady.
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