Photo by Corinne Nicholson
OXFORD -- Many Oxford residents appreciate the Rev. Tom and Emmie Johnson for their beautiful flower gardens and commitment to the city, and now the Oxford City Council wants to honor them publicly.
In June, Councilman Hoyt Oliver recommended that the two serve as co-grand marshals, previously known as Citizens of the Year, at this year's Fourth of July parade in Oxford.
"They have been extremely active in the Historical Cemetery Foundation, the (Oxford) Historical Society, Allen Memorial United Methodist Church and a host of other activities," Oliver said about his nomination, which the council unanimously approved.
The Johnsons said they are honored by the nomination.
"We were very much surprised," the Reverend said. "People come from all around to Oxford to see the parade."
He said they often watch the parade with one or more of their three children and some of their six grandchildren.
"It is probably the largest community event in Oxford for the year," he said. "It's the celebration of our heritage."
Mrs. Johnson added that the large event helps unify the town.
"I see people on the Fourth of July that I don't see all of the time, some that I've known all of my life," she said. "We enjoy it very much."
The couple now reside in Mrs. Johnson's family home, where she lived until 1945, when she went to college. Although the Rev. Johnson is from Macon, he attended Oxford College, not far from the home, and later Emory University.
The pair met while Mrs. Johnson was attending Wesleyan College in Macon, and the two started dating while the Rev. Johnson attended Oxford College -- they had their first date on the tennis courts in Oxford, as they were both avid players. They have been married since 1951.
After moving around the state while the Rev. Johnson was a minister for various Methodist churches, they returned to Oxford in 1993 to retire, although he still preaches at various churches from time to time.
"I like the people, and, of course, (Allen Memorial) church," the Rev. Johnson said about why he enjoyed living in Oxford. "And it's a good climate."
They also live near their two daughters who live in Gwinnett County and Gainesville, and their son who lives in Pine Mountain. And they enjoy living near the college and seeing the students and faculty, they said.
The Rev. Johnson is president of the Oxford Historical Cemetery Foundation, and they are both members of the Oxford Historical Shrine Society. They also are very active at Allen Memorial church.
Although they are involved residents, they might be best known for their yard work. Their home sits on 10 acres along Moore Street made up of a 1-acre vineyard of muscadines and several acres that include apple and pear trees, fig trees, blueberries and blackberries and hundreds of flowers, such as camellias, roses, azaleas and day lilies.
Mrs. Johnson said they enjoy it when people tell them how much they enjoy their gardens while driving or walking by, and the couple even prepare some of the flowers for local funerals and events.
"It's just a joy to grow things," the Rev. Johnson said. "God gives us all different talents. It can be a beautiful world if we all respond to his calls."
The parade begins at 10 a.m. Monday at Haygood Avenue and ends at Old Church.