Jesse Dorsey Johnson, Jr. 87, of Altus, Oklahoma, slipped into his eternal sleep Wednesday, December 6, 2017, with his loving family by his side. He was born in Wyatt, Missouri, the only child of Vassie Tate and Jesse D. Johnson, Sr. His parents worked as field hands. When he was two years old, his family moved to Brooksville, Oklahoma, where he received his early education.
During his sophomore year in high school, Jesse moved to Cushing, Oklahoma to live with his Uncle Joe and Aunt “Mike” Gretchen. Uncle Joe was the principal at Booker T. Washington High School, and they believed Jesse (later known as J.D.) would receive a better education in a city environment. While there J.D. played varsity basketball and baseball. Booker T. Washington High School basketball teams with J.D. at point guard led his team to a National Championship. After receiving his high school diploma, he was offered a scholarship to play basketball and baseball for Langston University. His college education was interrupted when he was drafted into the military. After serving in the Army from 1952 - 1954 he continued his education and graduated from Langston in 1955 with a B. S. in Education.
In January of 1956, J.D. began his career in Altus at the historically black Lincoln High School. J.D. was an excellent educator in social studies and industrial arts however; he quickly gained a reputation as a strategic and exceptional coach. His Lincoln Tigers basketball teams often made it to the playoffs and reached the state championships in Oklahoma City. His athletes realized that if you played for him, regardless of your talent level, if you desired success bad enough, he could get you there. In the classroom or on the field or court, Coach Johnson modeled the ethics of being a good human being. Being FIRM but FAIR, Coach Johnson’s personal touch went far beyond the classroom. Lessons such as sportsmanship, enthusiasm, fair-play, respect, and above all… having a competitive spirit was and is important in all walks of life. He taught how to be a modest winner and a graceful loser. Coach Johnson believed that an individual who cannot follow surely cannot lead.
After integration in 1966, he moved to Southeast Junior High School until 1974. Because of his wealth of knowledge as an educator and coach, he often took the time to mentor younger teachers by taking them under his “wings,” Coach Johnson was a galvanizing force as he also helped both students and parents adjust to integration and the everyday issues of life. J.D. organized and directed summer programs for children during the summers of 1956-2000. He financially sponsored and coached little-league softball, baseball, as well as the American Legion baseball teams. He was a surrogate parent to students of military families who transferred but chose to finish high school in Altus. In addition, he was a legal guardian to Veterans and made many daily visits to veteran homes to make sure they received the best care.
In 1972, his peers named him the Jackson County Teacher of the Year. In 1973, his fellow coaches voted him into the Jackson County Athletic Hall of Fame. In 1974, he transferred to Altus High School. There, he continued his legacy in the classroom and after receiving a degree in counseling in 1978 from Southwestern Oklahoma State University, he served as a counselor until his retirement in 2000 after 44 years of dedicated service. He was voted by the Oklahoma Coaches Association as Softball Coach of the Year in 1985-86 and 1988-1989, and is a member of that associations’ Hall of Fame. Today, when people say it’s hard, you have to remember… Coach Johnson made the best out of a bad situation. Losing his mother at the age of seven and living with family in another city, J. D. had many reasons to not succeed. He would have been justified to use his circumstances as excuses for failure. But he persevered as he persistently chipped away at life…getting the most of every moment and every opportunity. He succeeded…and did so “in spite” of the many obstacles he encountered along life’s journey.
He leaves to cherish his memories: a loving and devoted wife of 61 years, Fannie E. Chapel Johnson, his sons Rodney H. (Angie), Ivan K. (Marcia), and daughter Jessica Diane Johnson. Beloved grandchildren (Christopher, Aaron, Jessica, Pilar, Joshua, Rachel, Jacob, Jared, and Joseph) and great-grandchildren (Leilani and Michael Andre). First cousins Joe Louis Johnson (Carrie) and Fred Larkins, the Irvin Family (Gertrude, Rob, Ken, Diane, Denise), the Cooks Family, the Young Family, and the Gould Family – extended family (Claudine, Earl, Barbara and Carl), . Many cousins and friends. He was preceded in death by his parents, his special cousin, R.H. Irvin, and numerous cousins..
Funeral services are 10:00 am Tuesday December 12, 2017 at Lowell Tims Funeral Home Chapel with interment to follow at 1:00p.m. Tuesday at Fort Sill National Cemetery in Elgin, Oklahoma.