By: Chelsea Davis-Bibb, Ed.D.
In the words of John Wooden, “A good coach can change a game. A great coach can change a life.” This quote exemplifies the life, work and legacy of Tommy Lee Johnson Jr. who died on January 4.
Coach Johnson was born on August 21, 1937, to Tommie Lee Johnson Sr. and Odie Huff Johnson. Religion played a part in his life as he attended Damascus Missionary Baptist Church, he was a part of the men’s chorus at Windsor Village United Methodist Church, and later in life held membership at United Faith Missionary Baptist Church. He married the love of his life Doris Jewel (White) Johnson in 1962, and in this union, they had two children (Tommy Lee Johnson, III and Dr. Saardia E. Johnson).
He attended Booker T. Washington where he was a four-sport participant (basketball, football, baseball, and track), and held the state record in the broad jump. After high school, he attended Prairie View A & M University (PV) and received his Bachelor’s degree in Education and Master’s in Administration and Supervision. During his time at PV, he played basketball and was the captain of the golf team where he won the SWAC Men’s Golf Championship.
Coach Johnson started his coaching career at the historical Carverdale High School (1960-1969) in the Cypress Fairbanks School District (Cy-Fair), where he coached football, basketball, baseball, and track. He took his basketball team to the state playoffs in 1965 (won a state title), 1966 (won a state title), 1967, and 1968.
Carverdale High School was once the school that black students would attend before integration. The creation of this school started in 1925, when a German dairy farmer donated the one-room Tanner Road farmhouse, which was converted into a classroom for the school. Initially, the site was the first school for black students living in the Carverdale Community (once known as Independence Garden) and housed Greater Macedonia Baptist Church.
The farmhouse was then moved to Dancy Road and the school was named Fairbanks Colored School and served students in grades first through sixth in 1926. The school expanded and they gained their first principal in 1951, changed the name to Fairbanks Elementary School, and continued to grow each year. In 1956, the school served students in grades first through twelfth, and the name of the school was changed to Carverdale School. In 1967 the federal government gave The Cy-Fair School district a mandate to desegregate, and the board voted to close Carverdale in 1970.
Since it was the beginning of integration, Coach Johnson made history becoming the first black coach at Cy Fair High School. In 1971, his basketball team defeated Wheatley High School in their first state championship. He retired from the Cy-Fair School District after 34 years in 1994.
He was an active member of the Booker T. Washington and Prairie View A&M Alumni Association, and the Lone Star Golf Association. In addition, he was inducted into the PVILCA (Prairie View Interscholastic League Coaches Association) Hall of Honor and the Texas Coaches Hall of Fame in 2009.
It is through his work and involvement with the community that will continue to keep his legacy alive.
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