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Former school board vice chair honored with Long Leaf Pine award

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SMITHFIELD — Dorothy Johnson has devoted her professional life in Johnston County to giving children and families of all backgrounds a chance at success.

The former Johnston County Board of Education vice chairwoman, educator and longtime community advocate, along with former board member Butler Hall, received the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award at the April 9 school board meeting.

For 30 years, Johnson was a home economist with the state’s agricultural extension service.

As a parent, she took an active role in Johnston County Public Schools, became president of the Clayton Elementary PTA and ran for a school board seat.

“Mrs. Johnson was known for her practical approach to policymaking and execution and her commitment to fairness and diversity of thought, said school district chief of communication and engagement Crystal Roberts. “She prided herself on listening and representing all citizens of Johnston County and ensuring that her actions contributed to the well-being and preparation of students for 21st-century living.”

Roberts said Johnson regularly lobbied for a safe and disciplined school environment and applauded character-driven education that promoted values, worth and dignity for every student.

“Mrs. Johnson said she knew she needed to serve because the board had not had an African American presence and her ideal vision was to open the doors for acceptance for all races and ethnicities to secure seats on the board,” she said.

Roberts said Johnson prided herself on listening to and representing all Johnston County residents.

“Since I’ve been gone, you all are used to getting out late, so don’t mind me. I will only take up just a little bit of your time,” said Johnson. “Thank you so much. I want to thank the committee, but most of all, I want to thank Dr. Renfrow and Mike Wooten and Peggy Smith.”

Johnson said her entire life has been devoted to helping people.

“Kids can’t vote, but they have their opinion. My main goal was to make sure African American students were treated fairly and consistent with all other nationalities. I just believe in equal rights, and that is what I wanted to show students,” said Johnson. “The most important thing is equality. Everybody from student to teacher to custodian must be treated fairly.”

Johnson said she never had any hidden agenda while she served on the school board.

““I had no hidden agenda, none whatsoever,” said Johnson. “And I got this far because of board members that served with me. It was wonderful board members through the years that I have worked with and they all had one thing in mind on their agenda, and that was to help children.”

Johnson told school board members that if they weren’t there to help children, they were in the wrong place.

“If you come here to use it as a stepping stone to go elsewhere,” said Johnson, “you better go on because the children don’t need that.”

Roberts said the awards for Johnson and Hall were both well-deserved and she thanked them for their service.