Jesse Johnson was born December 12, 1932 in Dallas, Texas to the union of Alexander Josh Johnson and Myrtle Johnson-Dillard; both preceded him in death. Jesse had six siblings; three brothers and three sisters. All six siblings preceded him in death. Jesse accepted Christ and was baptized at an early age.
Raised in Dallas, Texas, Jesse was a product of the Dallas Public Schools. After moving to Los Angeles he enrolled in enrichment classes at Manual Arts Adult School. While at Manual Arts he took advantage of meetings, workshops, and on the job training.
In 1970 on a visit to Dallas, Jesse was introduced to the former Betty Jean Collins. The couple was married on June 10, 1972, and Betty moved from Dallas to Los Angeles to start a new life with her husband. They celebrated forty-three years of marriage this year. Jesse and Betty had two children, Alex Martin Johnson, Esq. and Dr. Cicely Kristen Johnson. Jesse was extremely proud of their accomplishments.
In May of 1973, Jesse and Betty joined Second Baptist Church of Los Angeles. Jesse had finally found the perfect church home and wanted to rededicate his life to Christ. He was baptized for the second time in 1973 by Rev. Dr. Thomas Kilgore Jr. At Second Baptist, Jesse took much pride in being an usher for about 30 years. As of May 6, 2015, Jesse had been a member of Second Baptist Church for 42 years. He served as vice-president of the Men’s Breakfast Club and as assistant treasurer. He often led the singing of “Onward Christian Soldiers” which concludes the monthly meetings. Jesse enjoyed singing and was a member of the following choir groups: Men’s Chorus, Cathedral, Gospel, Inspirational, and Sanctuary choirs.
His other areas of church involvement have included the Fisherman Bible Study Sunday School Class, pulpit participant for a variety of duties, bible study student, Family Ministry Co-Team Leader, Co-Leader to serve communion with Betty, active STEM member for two areas, kitchen assistant in preparing and serving food, and volunteer for the crib room. In 1988, the Jesse Johnson Family was named “Family of the Year”, an honor which made Jesse extremely proud.
Jesse was a professional truck driver/distributor who worked for Bohemian Distributing Company for 30 years until retiring. While working, he became an active member of the Teamsters Union Local 848 and served his fellow workers as a shop steward. In the 1970’s he ventured out and became a property entrepreneur and owner. His work involved communicating with a diverse array of people. Jesse ultimately became a community activist and was affectionately referred to as “The Mayor” for the Burnside Avenue Block Club.
As Block Club Captain he chaired events, hosted meetings, and served at the helm of planning the annual block party. Most often the celebration involved Mayor Tom Bradley and some members of the Mayor’s staff, firemen, police officers and explorers, and other civic and community leaders. On an annual basis, Jesse was drafted as a volunteer to collect donations for the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Special Olympics and other organizations for the block club.
Jesse was a member of the NAACP and actively recruited new members. He served on the Board of Directors for the Esquire Boys and Girls Club, serving as its vice-president for two years. For his tremendous work and service to the community Jesse received numerous commendations and awards.
Jesse loved traveling the world. He and Betty enjoyed France, Canada, and other countries; however, his favorite travels were to different parts of Africa. He thoroughly enjoyed South Africa (Cape Town and Johannesburg), and Zambia. Additionally, he was ecstatic to visit his children when they lived in different U.S. cities like Atlanta, Washington D.C., and New York City, and when they were speaking and presenting across the country.
Jesse was an extraordinary husband and father! He was a great family man who was both caring and compassionate, outspoken, fun, a leader, and courageous. He loved people and never met a stranger. Jesse enjoyed the outdoors, good food, reading, sports, jazz, driving, traveling, Westerns, and living spontaneously. He enjoyed mentoring many throughout the years, and was always described as an invaluable friend. Jesse had an amazing selfless nature and he deeply cared about others. He remained committed to checking on others throughout his life – to the very end.
Jesse was strong willed, determined, stylish, classy, and very charismatic. Jesse was culturally and politically astute, extremely well read, and regularly gravitated to indulging in books and documentaries. He was an avid historian, and a jazz aficionado. He enjoyed spending quality time with friends and loved ones. He was a people’s person, and the people loved him! Jesse will truly be missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.
Jesse leaves to cherish his memory – his loving and devoted wife, Betty; son, Alex Martin Johnson (Los Angeles); daughter, Cicely Kristen Johnson (New York); first cousins, Frankie Crumby (Dallas) and Johnnie Miles (Dallas); nieces, nephews, and a host of cousins, family and friends.