Since 1957, Dozier has had only one mayor

Published 12:00 am Friday, May 20, 2005

Dozier was incorporated as a town in 1907. 50 years later, R.R. 'Bud' Johnson was elected mayor.

Almost 50 years later R.R. 'Bud' Johnson is still the mayor. Johnson is the longest serving mayor in the State of Alabama.

He's been challenged several times, he says.

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And he's thought about retiring on occasion.

But Dozier won't let him.

"One year I decided not to run and there were six ladies who came in my office and shut the door behind them," says Johnson. "They said 'Mayor, you just have to run. We can't think of anybody else who can do what you've done for this town.'"

Originally from Covington County, Johnson was in his 30s when he was named Mayor of Dozier in 1957.

"I mixed well with the people. My daddy was proud and he talked loud," says Johnson. "There was a fellow here that daddy knew from Red Level. He said daddy went in somewhere down there and said 'you know who's Mayor of Dozier? My son, Bud!'

His father was a farmer, as was Johnson until high school ended and he joined the Navy. He attended Auburn University on the GI Bill and met his wife, Mary Merrill. Her father owned Henderson, Black and Merrill, the mercantile store in Dozier and center of business in the small town.

"We were home for the Christmas holidays and a discussion came up about me possibly running the store," recalls Johnson. "Mary had a brother, who was managing it, but he liked to drink and lay out for two or three days at a time. They weren't having that. But Mr. Merrill said 'I know where Bud comes from. Bud comes from a hard working family. I want him in the store.' So they made me manager."

In politics and business, it's easy to see why Johnson has succeeded. He knows everyone in the small town of approximately 500. He shakes hands. He smiles. He flatters. He welcomes people with open arms and everybody calls him 'Mr. Bud.'

A well-deserved nickname.

He's still going strong, even through a stroke and the death of Mary after 56 years of marriage.

"That liked to have got me," he says of her death, his voice breaking. "I wound up in Birmingham for depression for two weeks. I just couldn't help it. I just couldn't control myself."

Mary is buried in the Dozier Cemetery.

Johnson spends his days at the mercantile store and around the town. He said he hasn't run a re-election campaign in years, preferring to let his life and career speak for him.

Johnson installed both a water and sewer system in the town.

"That's two of the biggest things I did," he said. "Plus managing the business here (Henderson, Black and Merrill) and it's grown. And I was able to get the factory (Dozier Manufacturing), but we lost it. I feel responsible for getting it but I couldn't keep it. But none of these little towns around here were able to keep their textile factories."