The day before his funeral, former Russell County educator, school board member and NAACP chapter president Alphonso Johnson Sr. was remembered as a vital leader who served his community and country with honor.
The service is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday at Franchise Missionary Baptist Church, 1000 Dillingham St., in Phenix City, followed by interment at Fort Mitchell National Cemetery, according to Taylor Funeral Home Inc.
Johnson, 82, died Saturday at Midtown Medical Center after a lengthy illness, his son, Alphonso Johnson Jr., said Thursday.
Johnson Sr. was a "tremendous part of a lot of pivotal points in Russell County," said Kenneth Barnes, the Russell County Board of Education vice president. "He was about equality, with education being the equalizer."
Johnson, born and raised in Russell County, was drafted into the U.S. Army during the Korean War and honorably discharged after two years. He re-enrolled at Alabama A&M university and graduated in 1957.
For 34 years, he was a beloved and respected educator at Mt. Olive, which has been a high school and an elementary school, in Russell County. He served as a teacher, coach, athletics director and principal.
Joseph Williams knew Johnson as a mentor and colleague. He was a student in Johnson's class and a player on Johnson's team before becoming a fellow member on the school board. In all those roles, Johnson was dedicated to serving others, Williams said.
"He was an inspiration and instructor to me even after I finished school," he said. "A lot of people get on a board and have a personal agenda. He just believed in doing what was right."
The board's attorney, Sydney Smith, wrote in an email, "Mr. Johnson was a strong advocate for his beliefs and he worked hard to insure that all races were treated equally. I remember him as a kind man who was always very courteous to me, While we may have disagreed on some issues, I always felt that he treated me fairly and with respect. I believe that his influence and wisdom will be missed in our community as we all strive to provide the best education possible to all students."
Often, that meant duties with the school district, community and his church kept Johnson away from his family.
"We were able to glean enough," Johnson Jr. said. "We understood the mission, and we all have missions of our own."
Johnson Jr. is an Army veteran and assistant fire marshal in Hampton, Va. One sister is an educator in Atlanta and the other retired from the Army, he said. Their mother and Johnson's wife, Eula, was a registered nurse at the hospital where he died.
Click on this story later today for more tributes to Johnson's life and read the complete story in Friday's printed edition of the Ledger-Enquirer.