Funeral arrangements announced for legendary LeMoyne-Owen basketball coach Jerry C. Johnson


Jerry C. Johnson’s funeral will take place this weekend. Viewing is from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Feb. 5 at Mt. Vernon-Westwood, and on Feb. 6 from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

A private family graveside service is at 1 p.m. Saturday at Elmwood Cemetery.

Former players can pay their respects on Friday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., and all former players are asked to be at Mt. Vernon on Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Players should wear a black suit and purple tie if possible.

Players will go to Bruce Johnson Hall to line up in front of the gym as the funeral procession stops in front of the gym. Players will place ribbons on the gym door before going to Elmwood for the service.


LeMoyne-Owen basketball coach William Anderson said playing for Jerry C. Johnson was a true education in basketball.

“I tell my players I learned the game from the man who learned the game from the man who learned the game from the man who invented this,” Anderson said.

Johnson learned the sport from legends such as John McLendon, who learned the game from Dr. James Naismith, who invented the game.

Anderson and fellow former Magician Wade Evans said his impact goes beyond the court.

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Evans still remembers the July day in 1997 when Johnson told him he was going to play at LeMoyne.

“He kept me from a lot of stuff that day telling me that he wanted me to come play for him,” Evans said. “I dodged a big bullet being invited to come play at LeMoyne-Owen College.”

Johnson retired in 2005 after 46 years, winning 821 games.

He reached the pinnacle of his profession in 1975, leading the Magicians to the NCAA Division III championship, the first HBCU to do so.

“Going to practice was like going to a class more than going to a basketball practice,” Anderson said. “We learned about the history of the game. We learned the fundamental aspects of how to play the game.”

Evans remembers a distinct style Johnson used to get points of the game across.

“Coach Johnson would get down on one knee and put quarters and pennies and dimes together, showing you movements and plays,” Evans said. “We never understood that but man, it worked.”

A member of the Memphis and Tennessee Sports Hall of Fames, Johnson coached eight NBA players.

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Anderson and Evans said the biggest impact are the Memphis leaders Johnson helped guide as young people.

These names include Dr. Willie Herenton, the first elected African American mayor of Memphis and Shelby County Commissioner Mickell Lowery.

“Coach had his heart and soul deeply rooted in Memphis,” Evans said. “He could have easily gone somewhere else but he made roots here. Was a strong tree in the community, the community of Memphis overall.”

Anderson said Johnson felt a pull to stay in Memphis and building something special.

“I believe after winning that national championship coach saw the impact he could make here in our community and it’s a living legacy that he’s left with all the mentors and leaders that he’s inspired and impacted in our community,” Anderson said.