Elton L. Johnson, former mayor, dies at the age of 91

Published 7:34 pm Friday, June 12, 2009

Elton L. Johnson, who served four years as a city councilman and one term as Greenville mayor, died on Thursday. He was 91.

Johnson was mayor from 1964-68. He was also a devoted Rotarian, awarded the club’s Paul Harris Fellow award in 2000 for outstanding service, and operated a jewelry store in the city for 30 years.

Wife Sue Johnson said her husband just “loved politics.”

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“He was always running for something and it seems like he ran every year for 20 years,” she said.

The couple was married for 58 years.

Johnson is survived by his wife, son Pierce Dunn Johnson, three grandchildren, and brother Robert Turner Johnson.

Dunn Johnson said he idolized his father.

“I wish I could say at the end of my life that I had done half of the stuff my father did in his,” he said.

Johnson attended the Fellowship Sunday School class at First Baptist Church in Greenville for 63 years. He was also a member of the Eureka Lodge and the Greenville Jaycees. As a jeweler, he served as President of the Alabama Retail Jewelers Association.

He was especially proud of the fiscal responsibility of his administration while in office, said Sue Johnson.

“He left the mayor’s office not owing anybody,” she said. “Everything was in the black.”

Charles Jones, who was a member with Johnson in the Rotary Club of Greenville, described an outgoing and friendly man always willing to serve.

At times during his membership, Jones said Johnson served as president, secretary and treasurer.

“The main thing I remember is that he served as secretary and treasurer for a number of years straight,” he said. “Many people in that position are ready to get it done with when their year is up, but Elton was happy to continue.”

Johnson attended every Rotary meeting for 54 years straight between 1946 to 2000.

Johnson defeated W.E. “Gene” Hardin, former publisher and editor of The Greenville Advocate, in the 1964 mayoral race.

“We ran against each other and luckily he won,” joked Hardin, who recalled shucking and eating oysters with Johnson at Jaycees’ gatherings.

Funeral services for Johnson will be held at 11 a.m. on Saturday from the chapel of Dunklin & Daniels Funeral Home. Interment will follow at Magnolia Cemetery. In lieu of flowers donations may be made in Mr. Johnson’s memory to the Organ Fund at First Baptist Church of Greenville.