Area bids farewell to Jim Johnson

Published 5:21 pm Saturday, December 13, 2008

AHOSKIE – As a child during the Great Depression, he watched his family struggle and lose the family farm.

As a young adult, he followed a lost military leader and wound-up spending the majority of World War II in a German POW Camp.

However, as a man, James “Jim” Tillery Johnson was never at a loss of success.

Johnson, hailed by many as one of the most successful businessmen in the Roanoke-Chowan area, will be buried at 11 a.m. today (Saturday) in his native Scotland Neck. A memorial service will follow at 2 p.m. at St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Ahoskie with a reception to follow.

Most all remember Johnson, who died on Dec. 5 at the age of 86 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s and other complications, for his infectious smile, his love of “old folks” and his “can do “ attitude.

What they may not remember is that Johnson, despite all his business success as an adult, was reared during tough times. His father, the now late Hugh Johnson, lost the family farm near Scotland Neck during the Depression. The family was forced to move to Raleigh in order for his father to find work.

After graduating from high school, the strapping young Jim Johnson attended NC State College until he joined the Army in 1943.

As a member of K Company of the 335th Infantry, Johnson’s unit was on a mission to take the German town of Lindern when his 2nd Lieutenant became lost during the overnight march. Johnson, a buck private, and 17 of his comrades were captured.

Over the course of the rest of the War in Europe, Johnson survived on the bare basics….a small slice of bread, two small potatoes and a cup of green-looking soup as his daily meal.

Back home, his parents had been notified he was missing in action and feared their son was dead. However, Johnson managed to survive and his prison camp was eventually overtaken by Russians who set the Americans free. They were forced to walk 60 miles to return to the Allied Forces lines.

He eventually returned to NC State in 1946. That education (he graduated in 1947 with a degree in Agriculture) plus hard lessons of life transformed Johnson into a successful businessman.

His first love was farming, but he was a multi-talented entrepreneur, being involved in nursing homes, restaurants, LP gas distribution, Ace Hardware and other endeavors in Scotland Neck and Ahoskie areas.

He leaves a legacy of hard work and determination. Those two strong character traits are an inspiration to his children, his community, his many business partners and employees.

Johnson was a member of the First Baptist Church of Scotland Neck and the St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Ahoskie .

Memorials can be made to St. Thomas Episcopal Church, Ahoskie Food Pantry, Scotland Neck Food Bank, First Baptist Church of Scotland Neck, 1015 Church Street, Scotland Neck, NC 27874, University Health Systems Hospice Care, 521 West Myers Street, Ahoskie, NC 27910 and Alzheimer’s Research Foundation.

Friends and family may send online condolences and sign the online register at