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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Class of '45 says good-bye to one of their own-James Johnson

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

1945 Brazil High School yearbook

James Johnson played Center for the Brazil Red Devils during his high school career.



The Brazil High School Class of 1945 is remembering one of their own. Word has reached them of his passing.

James E. Johnson, 80, formerly of Brazil, died Thursday at Victory Memorial Hospital in Waukegan, Ill.

In 1945, the athlete was better known as "Burley" Johnson and he is well-remembered by his friends.

"He was a wonderful fellow," said classmate Kenny Crabb on Tuesday morning.

Crabb remembers being on some of the same teams with Johnson.

Johnson ran track and played basketball at Brazil High School. In fact, Johnson made the varsity basketball team his sophomore year. The Red Devils won the Wabash Valley Tournament that year, Crabb recalled.

In track, Johnson ran the 440 and the mile relay. He went to the State Finals two or three times during his high school career.

Following a three-year stint in the Air Force, Johnson attended Eastern Illinois University at Charleston, where he also ran track, according to an obituary from Congdon & Co. funeral home, Zion, Ill.

He was a member of the 1949-1952 Eastern Illinois University Men's basketball team that was inducted into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame.

After graduation from college in 1952, Johnson went to the New York City area.

He earned his Master's Degree from New York University and worked toward his Ph.D.

Johnson taught and coached for 18 years in New York City schools.

He returned to Eastern Illinois in 1970 to assume the post of Assistant Dean of Student Personnel, a job he held for 21 years until his retirement in 1991.

Johnson was an active member of the Charleston Kiwanis Club, Charleston Country Cub, EI Club, Charleston Area Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors, Eastern Alumni Association, Wesley Methodist Church of Charleston and Memorial United Methodist Church of Zion, Ill.

He was elected to the Eastern Illinois Minority Hall of Fame, EIU Athletic Hall of Fame and the EIU Black Alumni Hall of Fame.

"I was real pleased with his success," Crabb said.

Some other high school classmates, still living in Clay County, include Phyllis Crabb, Leroy Howes and Marion "Sarge" Eveland. More than 60 of the surviving 100 classmates attended a recent reunion, Howes recalled.

Following retirement, Johnson and his wife, Lelia, moved to Zion, Ill., to be near their daughter.

Johnson's parents were Lee Ernest and Mary Watkins Johnson.

Survivors include his wife, Lelia Ross Johnson, whom he married Oct. 26, 1948; their children, James F (Shelly) Johnson of el Paso, Texas, Nancy Johnson of Zion, Ill., and George (Hilary) Johnson of Plano, Texas; grandchildren, Christopher, James Michael, Jared, Nicholas, Joel, Lelia, Marquis, Frankie, Isaiah and Katrina; a great-grandchild, Caden Johnson; two sisters, Marie Williams and Laura Murdolo, both of Indianapolis; a brother, Theodore Johnson, of Columbus, Ohio; and numerous nieces, nephews and other relatives.

Two sisters, Lilian Green and Elsie Johnson, both of Indianapolis, are deceased.

Jim Johnson's funeral was at 1 p.m. Monday, at Memorial United Methodist Church with Pastor Cheryl Esbrook officiating.

Memorial donations may be sent to Eastern Illinois University's Athletic Dept.

Friends may sign the online guest book at http://www.congdonfuneralhome.com.

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