Kenneth Johnson ’52

Kenneth Marshall Johnson was born near the Deep River in Randolph County, North Carolina on February 11, 1928 to Lydia Florence and Jesse Deverin Johnson. He was named after his Uncle Ken and Dr. Marshall who attended to his birth.

He is survived by his younger sister, Betty Johnson who was born 13 months after Kenneth. At the age of three, Ken proudly announced to his neighbors that his mother just had two babies (twins Bob and Jim)!

During Ken’s childhood and teen years his family formed The Johnson Family Singers. On many Sabbaths during the decades of the 40’s and 50’s, originating from WBT in Charlotte, CBS radio filled the airwaves with the gospel songs of The Johnson Family Singers. The Johnson Family Singers made dozens of records and in the 50’s appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Throughout Ken’s life he expanded on these roots through great preaching, leading the Davidson College Choir, leading singing in revivals, camp meetings, and United Methodist missions and participating in the Haywood Community Chorus.

Ken was the first member of his family to attend college. His father had only wanted him to complete the 8th grade, but Ken was incredibly goal oriented. As a young boy while assisting in egg delivery, Ken went to the house of the President of Davidson College who lived next to the campus. At the sight of the college, he made the decision that he would attend Davidson and he did after graduating from Harding High School in Charlotte.

Through his twin brothers, who were cheerleaders at Paw Creek School near Charlotte, Ken met a young teacher, the cheerleader sponsor, Evelyn Guyton, a South Carolinian. Ken and Evelyn, who survives him, were married on Thanksgiving, November 22, 1951.

Ken counted his marriage and ministry as his two great callings. For 69 years on each anniversary at the exact time of their wedding Ken and Evelyn would intently listen to a recording of their service. They have five children: Martha Lynn (Bruce), Ken Jr., Robin (Dessie), Wesley and Christopher; four grandchildren: Becky, Lee, Sarah and Michael; two great-grandchildren: Nathan and Lily.

Ken graduated from Duke Divinity School in 1955 and received his Doctor of Ministry from Drew Theological School in 1981. Ken was particularly gifted in hospitality, music, preaching and administration. He served as a pastor for sixteen United Methodist Churches in The Western North Carolina Conference.

After retiring in 1994 Ken and Evelyn continued ministry as Volunteers in Mission to the Methodist Church in Indonesia. During Ken’s retirement he led boat tours around Lake Junaluska and welcomed guests to the Lake.

He loved writing: bulletin covers, articles for The Mountaineer in Waynesville, his family story including The Johnson Family Singers: We Sang for Our Supper and prayers including a book, Prayers for Living.

He also loved Davidson College, Duke Basketball and The Divinity School, attending Duke Divinity Convocation at Duke for over 60 years. Duke Library holds a Special Collection of his sermons and ministry in Western North Carolina. Even in Ken’s retirement he always attended The United Methodist Annual Conference at Lake Junaluska.

A proud Democrat and advocate for social justice, amidst health challenges Ken voted in the 2020 elections. He was a faithful, kind and conscientious son, brother, husband, father, grandfather and pastor always radiating positivity and enthusiasm. “Helpful” was the one word he wanted to describe his life.

Ken and Evelyn moved to Givens Estates in Asheville in 2018. During his period of declining health he stated he was moving on to his next appointment. He died peacefully on the night of January 15, 2021. Ken’s memorial service will be held after the Pandemic.

His body will lie in the Mausoleum of Garrett-Hillcrest Memorial Gardens.

Memorials may be made to The Choir of First United Methodist Church of Waynesville, P.O. Box 838, Waynesville, NC.

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