Saturday, August 5, 2017

Benjamin Johnson, Sr - "Granddaddy"

Benjamin "B.J." Johnson was the third child of four children born to Lee & Sarah (Franklin) Johnson. He was born on December 30, 1905, in Montgomery, Montgomery County, Texas. He found Christ at the age of 15 and was baptized at Mt. Sinai Baptist Church in Montgomery by the late Reverend Churchwell. Benjamin, his siblings, mother, and step-father all left Montgomery sometime in the early 1920's and moved to Fort Worth, Texas. Around 1925, Benjamin and his brothers, Oscar (wife Alberta), and Edward Lee moved to Houston, Texas where they lived at 2606 Leeland Avenue located in the historic Third Ward community. Benjamin united with the Spiritual True Church of Christ in Third Ward under the leadership of the late Reverend Bible. In 1927, Benjamin met Dorothy (Austin) Higgins and the two were united in holy matrimony on June 18, 1927. They were the parents of 11 children: Thomas Higgins, Jr. (Dorothy's son from her first marriage), Robert Lee Johnson, Sr., Wilford Johnson, Maud Esther (Johnson) Addison, Nathaniel Winston Johnson, Shirley Jean (Johnson) Pipkins, Bernard Johnson, Sr., "Living" Johnson, Carolyn Joyce (Johnson) Lee, "Living" Johnson #2, and Theresa "Baby Girl" Johnson (Stillbirth). 
In 1949, Benjamin and his family moved to Fifth Ward, where he built the family home on 5108 Salina Street. Benjamin and his family united with Greater True Vine Missionary Baptist Church under the leadership of the late Pastor B.J. Collins, where he served as a Deacon.  
Benjamin retired from Folgers Coffee in 1969 after 25 years of service. He died on Wednesday, April 7, 1993, in Houston, Texas and is buried at Paradise North Cemetery next to his wife of 44 years. He was affectionately known as “Granddaddy” by his grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

C.A. Garnett shared the following memories about her grandfather: 
Benjamin on the day of his retirement in 1969
"My earliest memories of my grandfather are of him coming home from work every day and the grandchildren opening the gate for him to pull his car in. Grandpa was a hardworking man who provided for his wife and 11 children. He retired from Folgers Coffee that was located on Navigation Blvd., Maxwell House has since taken over that location. He took always took a syrup in a bottle every day that had the letters "SSS", which stood for 3 S Tonic. He took it every day to ward off any colds or other ailments that would keep him from working. He loved to work and he always kept a coffee can full of loose change. He was very stingy with his money and was not too quick to give you any money. After my parents divorced we went to live with him and my grandmother, he would give us approximately $.05 every day for milk. Occasionally, we would get an extra penny ($.01) for candy. Yes, back in the day you could buy a piece of candy for one cent.
Granddaddy would never eat all of his lunch; he always took at least 3 sandwiches and a half a dozen of cookies every day. He always brought, at least, one sandwich home that the grandchildren would fight over. I still remember the day that he retired from Folgers and we were very excited for him. He was a very good carpenter and he built dog houses, but before that he built the family home and the apartments that were located in the back of the home. He was a strict disciplinarian and he was just as strict on his grandchildren as he was on his own children. Whenever one of the grandchildren got into trouble, his favorite was "get on your knees". Those words would hurt as bad as a whipping, he did not have to whip the grandchildren, he would just put you on your knees and you would have to stay on your knees until he fell asleep in his chair or he would tell you that you could get up. Usually, someone would be on their knees for about an hour at the most. It was especially difficult if all of your siblings and cousins were outside running around and you could not join them.
In his later years before he went to live with his son, he would be driving around and he would always pick up hitchhikers. He learned his lesson when he was tied up and robbed at gunpoint. He would never drive on the freeway and I learned all of the back streets of Houston just by riding with him. When he was driving and I needed to go somewhere, he would always be willing to take me. He took me and picked me up many times. The only time that I did not like riding with him was when he was with his sister, Milliernea. They would argue constantly, and they disagreed about any and almost everything." - C.A. Garnett, Granddaughter

In an email correspondence from September 13, 2006, Benjamin’s niece, E.L. Clark relayed the following:
"I also mentioned to you earlier how bonded the three brothers were. Although Uncle Oscar and my father had the business together, Uncle B.J. was with them. He would work with them at the business on the weekends and the three of them would make the house blocks together. You can see how hard these men could and would work although they had regular jobs. My mother still mentions that now. I was able to see that with Uncle B. J. and my father." - E.L. Clark, Niece

Benjamin Johnson, Sr., in his earlier years working at Folgers
– Photo from the collection of the late, Shirley (Johnson) Pipkins

Benjamin Johnson, Sr. and Dorothy (Austin) Johnson
– Photo from the collection of the late, Shirley (Johnson) Pipkins
Benjamin Johnson, Sr. Family Tree

-Terrence A. Garnett (published: August 5, 2017, 12:52 pm)