By Junior Johnson
Harvis Johnson was the most honest and hard-working man I’ve ever known. He loved his family and was admired in his community. His word was his bond and everyone gave him the respect he deserved. He was also my Father.
I learned many things from him through the years, but one story stays etched in my memory.
We lived in a sharecroppers house on CoCo Bed Road near Cloutierville. Dad worked in the logging woods and raised cotton for the Estate we lived on. During the farming season he’d scale back his logging activities to prepare the field and care for the cotton.
When logging, Dad had two workers. One hauled logs to the sawmill and another helped cut trees. The skidding of the logs to the loading area was done with Dad’s two big mules, Tom and Kit. They were also used for plowing the field.
There was a huge black man, Mr. Mack, who raised his family nearby. I played with his two boys every day. Mack worked as a day laborer for the Estate and he and my Dad were good friends.
One night Dad invited Mack and his family over for supper. He asked Mack if he’d be interested in working in the logging woods for $5 a day. Mack eagerly accepted because he was only making $3 a day at the Estate.
The arrangement was productive for my Dad. Mack was almost seven feet tall and weighed probably 300 pounds. He would man handle many aspects of the job meant for the mules. Dad was able to get an extra load of logs to the mill each day.
It didn’t take long before workers on the Estate learned he was making almost twice the amount of money they were. Trouble began to brew.
An Estate Foreman showed up on our doorstep and told Dad he had to fire Mack because the Estate workers wanted more money and that just wasn’t going to happen. The Estate owner, K.D. McCoy, wanted Dad to comply or move.
After much discussion, my Dad said he wouldn’t fire Mack.
Trying to compromise, Dad was offered a place for sale with almost 100 acres, complete with house, farm and pastureland, and a wooded parcel for $10,000, which was a lot of money in 1953.
Dad had $500 in savings. If McKoy financed the balance, he’d buy the property and move.
Dad told us later the Estate Manager replied, “Harvis I admire your courage, honesty, and loyalty to your family, however I hate to lose a good worker who has made us a lot of money. I will give you the money for your new home and wish you and your family the best of luck in the future.”
Dad paid the loan off in less than 10 years.
Our new home had running water and an indoor bathroom. It seemed like a mansion. Mack moved his family into a rent house nearby.
Our families remained close for years. We shared meals at each other’s homes many times. Mack’s two boys and I grew up friends and playmates, but regretfully couldn’t attend school together. That was a different place and time. We didn’t recognize color as a difference.
This was just one of many lessons that I learned from Harvis Johnson as I grew to adulthood. He was a good man and I will see him again one day as he prepares a place for his loved ones. I love and miss you Dad.