Jerry Johnson inducted into NCHSAA Hall
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on April 21, 2012 11:20 PM
The image flashed onto the screen. The sharp black and white photo showed a younger and limber Jerry Johnson doing a split as he stretched to scoop up a ground ball thrown in the dirt to first base.
"Mr. Johnson was a handsome looking fella when he was young," commented one Hall of Fame attendee.
"What does that mean now that I am old?" he said to himself.
Those snapshots frozen in time helped sew the tapestry of Johnson's life as a player, an educator, a friend, a mentor and most importantly -- an official/umpire. He's undoubtedly treasured those memories he's made during his four-decade tenure while making calls either on the football field, basketball court or behind the plate.
But Johnson had an evening he won't soon forget.
Supported by his three "families," the Goldsboro resident was part of the 25th class enshrined into the prestigious N.C. High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame last Saturday in Chapel Hill. Johnson was joined by legendary WRAL-TV 5 sports anchor Tom Suiter, award-winning principal Rosalie Bardin, Sheila Boles, Jimmy Fleming, John Frye, Mike Matheson and John Morris. Matheson and Morris were posthumous inductions.
The Association recognized these individuals who have made major contributions to high school athletics in North Carolina. Each inductee was introduced by a special video presentation and each received a commemorative NCHSAA Hall of Fame ring in honor of their induction.
"We hope that the communities represented by these outstanding individuals would be present to support those who have meant so much to so many people," said Davis Whitfield, commissioner of the NCHSAA. "The Hall of Fame ceremonies have evolved into a first-class event and it is a great opportunity for former players and other supporters of these honorees to gather together."
Johnson has worked more than 6,000 games during a career that spans nine Presidents in the White House. He's officiated NCHSAA championships in football and baseball, and was on the crew that called the 2008 NCAA Division II Southeast Regional baseball tournament hosted by Mount Olive College.
He's received awards from the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association for his strong dedication and service. Johnson has also mentored several umpires who have gone on to earn their own recognition on the state, regional and national levels in different sports.
Johnson's three families -- his biological, his church family and umpire/officials family -- watched with pride during the video presentation. Camera flashes illuminated the Friday Center as Johnson received his Hall of Fame ring from Whitfield.
"There is definitely some humility and modesty," Johnson said. "I just think about how blessed I am to have been in the right spot at the right time. Quite often, that's what leads to success.
"My three families ... I will always relish the memories of that and how good that makes you feel. Oh my gracious, that just brings tears to your eyes when you look out there and see that."
Johnson became the first-ever Wayne Countian inducted into the Hall.
So, has the induction sunk in?
"The thing about it is sometimes, from time to time, it just hits you ... especially when I'm riding to a game (with other umpires) or outside cutting grass," Johnson said. "You just think about how blessed, rather than lucky you are as to what you've been able to accomplish and achieve.
"As I've told people, that indicates the pinnacle of success. But, as time goes by, that's not the greatest thing. The greatest thing is the people that I have met, and relationships and friendships I have made the last 40 years."
Now, that's a lifetime.