GALILEE COMMUNITY - James S. "Jimmy" Johnson, 87, lifelong farmer, former Jackson County Commissioner, church and civic leader, World War II veteran and avid private pilot, died Friday, November 13, 2009, at his residence.
Born in the Galilee community, the community in which he lived at the time of his death, he was the son of the late James Augustus and Emma Carlton Johnson. He was married February 15, 1948, in Atlanta, to the former Ruth Copeland of Manchester.
He was born and raised on the family cattle, hog, crop and poultry farm and operated it for most of his life. Looking to diversify the original cotton and ginning operation started by his father, Mr. Johnson began a purebred Angus cattle herd as an FFA project in high school in 1938. His herd is one of the earliest started and longest continuous herds in the state. In the late 1950s, Johnson built the first poultry houses and planted pine trees to further diversify and complement the cattle and crop businesses. He was always looking for ways to improve his livestock and farming practices and conserve soil and water, said family members. He planted hybrid Bermuda grass in the 1940s and artificially bred his cows before it was a common or even accepted practice.
The Jackson Countian also was a leader in state and community agricultural organizations. He had been a director and past president of the Jackson County Cattlemen's Association and the Northeast Georgia Cattlemen's Association; was twice president of the Georgia Angus Association; helped organize the Georgia Cattlemen's Association and was a past director; served as a supervisor for the Oconee River Soil and Water Conservation District for 37 years; was appointed by three governors to serve on the State Soil and Water Conservation Committee; and was recognized by the Jackson County Farm Bureau for 25 years service on its board of directors.
Mr. Johnson served as a member of the Jackson County Board of Commissioners for six years.
He was also a church and civic leader, having been a member of Galilee Christian Church for 77 years and having served as a Sunday School superintendent and as a deacon for 25 years. He was a past director of the Jackson County Area Chamber of Commerce, was a director of the First National Bank of Jackson County, and was a past Rotary Club member.
Mr. Johnson saw active military duty during World War II as an infantry machine gunner and assisted in liberating Nazi death camps.
He was an avid private pilot, having learned to fly a J3 Cub in 1941 before World War II. In his log book, he recorded: "Japs attacked Pearl Harbor while I was up. All civilian planes grounded December 7, 1941." After the war, he delighted many people by taking them up on his plane off the grass strip on his farm.
Mr. Johnson is survived by his wife; one daughter, Shirley Ruth Johnson, Jefferson; two sons, Dewey and Randy Johnson, both of Jefferson; five grandchildren, Eli and Laura Underwood, Audrey Stell, J.T. Johnson, and Nathan Johnson; and one great-grandson, Sam Underwood. He was preceded in death by a daughter, Linda Underwood Banks.
Funeral services were held Sunday, November 15, at Galilee Christian Church with Minister Tom Plank officiating. Interment followed in the church cemetery.
Memorials may be made to the Galilee Christian Church Building Fund, 2191 Galilee Church Rd., Jefferson, GA 30549.
Evans Funeral Home, 1350 Winder Hwy., Jefferson, GA 706-367-5467.
Online condolences at www.evansfuneralhomeinc.com.