James R. Johnson

1985 Greater Flint Afro-American Hall of Fame Inductee


A native born in Flint, Johnson attended Clark Elementary, Whittier Jr. High and graduated from Flint Central in 1934. At Central he participated in four major sports, football, basketball, baseball and track, earning eleven varsity letters, an achievement that is a record in Flint sports to this day. Where and how he had the energy to participate in such a strenuous sports program is in itself unbelievable. Jim possessed great determination and dedication and was an exceptionally talented young man. As outstanding an athlete as Jim was, there were no college scouts knocking at his door to recruit him. It wasn’t because he did not possess the talent,but because black’s were not in demand in the world of higher education, even if they were exceptional athletes.

By coincidence a recruiter from the south was passing through, visiting relatives in Flint. He inquired about athletes in the area and Jim’s name was among those mentioned. The recruiter arranged an athletic scholarship for his first year but it was up to Jim to get the scholarship renewed, based on his academic achievement and athletic abilities.

During his four years of competition at South Carolina State in the athletic programs he earned nine letters. While participating in football he earned four more. On the basketball team he proved his worth and earned four letters and he earned one letter in baseball.

Johnson became one of Flint’s first All-Americans by being selected in his senior year as a Black All-American at South Carolina State in 1937. He was also an All-Southern Atlantic Conference tackle in 1936-37.

Jim graduated with a Bachelors of Science degree in Biology and after furthering his education in Europe at the Sorbonne University in Paris, France, he served in the United States Army as a lieutenant for five years.

After returning home, he devoted his time to Flint’s youth as Director of the St. John Street Community Center and Brennon Center for 27 years. Johnson retired in 1977 and was recently inducted into the Greater Flint Area Sports Hall of Fame.