The Douglasville City Council voted unanimously Monday night to name the
Pavilion at Jessie Davis Park in honor of James Johnson, a well-known African-American leader and pioneer from Douglasville's Northside.
James Johnson was known to many in Douglasville as "Jamie" and to some as "Whop."
The name "Jamie" was that used by family members and friends. He was called "Whop" by those who knew him as a boxer who carried a powerful punch.
Johnson was a humble man who never forgot where he came from. Though he never got beyond a fourth grade education, he could draw a plan for a house and build to it suit those who were in need. His children remember living only in homes he built. James valued the unit called family.
He cared for mother, sister, brother, nieces, and his own offspring and would, if he could, have them all under one roof if it was his choice.
In the 60's when Douglasville was smaller and everyone knew everyone, James Johnson was a self employed black man, known by black and white residents throughout Douglasville. Jamie had creative way of making a living, all legal and in ways that allowed him to be the "boss."
Many young black men were able to get a start in life with his help. Many would seek him out to do sub-contracting work in the housing construction industry. Jamie had a crew of young men who worked for him and depended on him for steady employment. Many young black men were able to get a
start in life with the help of James Johnson, "Whop"- When Black families needed assistance, many turned to "Jamie." If you needed a footing dug or a house demolished, he was just a call away.
He and his wife Helen ran a neighborhood store/cafe which, for blacks in the 1960s was the gathering place in the community. You would go to "Jamie's & Helen's" place to get a good meal of fried chicken, green beans, collard greens, potato salad, cornbread and the likes. You could go there and shoot pool and laugh and talk with those who came through. Jamie would be somewhere sitting looking out making sure everything ran smoothly and there was no "undesirable" words or behaviors present. Cussing and disorderly conduct was not allowed and an who knew "Whop" knew it. Another remarkable thing about James Johnson, one never heard him complain or speak ill of anyone.
Johnson owned several pieces of rental property in the northern end of Douglasville, off Dallas Highway, which was horne for many in the black community. There was a street that ran from Dallas Highway up to Malone Street known as "Hoke Drive." Hoke Drive consisted of seven to eight houses, one set of single level apartments (four units) and one two-level set (six units) of apartments. All the houses, except three, plus the apartments belonged to James Johnson and were built by James Johnson and his crew of workers. He had other rental properties and houses throughout the community also.
Much of the Jessie Davis Park property, where the pavilions are located, belonged to James Johnson. At the time of his death in 1985, Johnson had moved his five-bedroom horne from Malone Rd. to Thompson Street. The move was the result of him having to sell his property to the City of Douglasville, all under the "imminent domain" theory. Prior to this move, his property on "Hoke Drive" had been condemned and purchased by the City of Douglasville under the umbrella of "Urban Renewal."
Johnson had initiated a suit against the City concerning the price offered for his property. He died soon after the house was moved and the suit was settled by his estate.
He was a man who had no education, who chose to forge ahead believing he could do whatever he set out to do. He was an entrepreneur, a business man, a loan officer, a pawn shop owner, a bondsman, a counselor, a father, a brother and a friend. He was a man to be imitated and admired.