Taylor Funeral Home

Donzell Johnson
Date of Death or Service Oct 1, 2014
Donzell Johnson

Funeral services for Donzell Johnson, age 79 of Nashville, TN were conducted Thursday evening, October 9, 2014 at 6 pm from the Lake Providence Missionary Baptist Church, 5891 Nolensville Pike, Nashville, TN.  For those desiring, Memorials may be made to the Donzell Johnson Educational Scholarship Fund at John Wesley United Methodist Church, 901 Benton Ave. Nashville, TN 37204. Services under the direction of the Taylor Funeral Home.



A storyteller at heart, Donzell Johnson’s story began on September 22, 1935 in Ringgold, Louisiana when he was born tenth among eleven children to the union of Willie Elvester Glover and James McKinley Johnson .Donzell reflected fondly upon his childhood and would often tell favorite memories of visiting his grandfather’s sugar plantation by wagon or walking to school and feeling the warmth of a hot sweet potato in his pocket given to him by his mom to keep his hands warm. Raised in a Christian home, Don accepted Christ, in his youth and was baptized at Israelite Baptist Church in Ringgold, LA. The family later moved to Shreveport, and he affiliated with Zion Mission Baptist Church. His early education began in the Caddo Parrish Segregated Schools. He graduated Booker T. Washington High School in the Class of 1953. While in high school, Donzell met Mary Brown and was blessed with a daughter Renita Michelle, better known as Mitch.



Answering a call to serve his country, Donzell enlisted in the United States Air Force and served 4 years. He was honorably discharged and went on to enroll at Fisk University. At Fisk, Don was quickly recognized as an avid photographer and set builder for the Stagecrafters, Fisk’s theatrical troupe. During the turbulent 1960’s in Nashville, Tennessee, Donzell found himself playing a part in the historic Civil Rights Movement.  Many Fish University students participated in the successful sit-in protest with the assistance of students like Donzell who provided transportation to keep the non-violent assault going. In 1963, Donzell graduated from Fisk University and married Carolyn Nesbitt of Dickson, TN. Their union ended in 1973 when Carolyn was laid to rest, leaving Donzell and their two children, Mimi and Ralph. Love returned when he met Mary Deloris (Moore) Jones, who had two children, Kenneth (Ken) and Michelle. The two families became one in 1983 when Donzell and Mary married, forming the “924 Crew”.



Don’s love of education received its foundation at Fisk University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Education then going on to receive a Master of Arts in Social Science, professional certifications to teach in six academic areas including: History, Government, Sociology, Psychology, Economics, and Secondary Administration. He later pursed additional training at Vanderbilt’s George Peabody Teachers College. Donzell entered the classroom for the first time in 1963 to teach in the Social Sciences at Pearl High School.  During his career, he was privileged to join the faculty of Madison High School in 1971 and was selected to become a member of the first faculty at Hunters Lane High School in 1987. Donzell retired from the classroom, but never from teaching, after thirty-six years of educating minds and inspiring hearts in the Metropolitan Nashville Davidson County Public School System. His career was marked by numerous achievements including: An invitation by the Kennedy Administration to visit the White House, an invitation from Vice President Rockefeller to serve as a consultant on Domestic Policy, 1987 “Outstanding Tennessee Social Studies Teacher”, Hunters Lane “Teacher of the Year”, 1989 recipient of the “Brotherhood Sisterhood Award” presented by the National Conference of Christians and Jews, and 1992 Phi Delta Kappa Outstanding Black Male Educator. In each of these accolades, Donzell acknowledged God as the source of his success. One of his proudest achievements was the role he played in the establishment of a local charter of the American Federation of Teachers. In the late 60’s he and a small group of teachers brought this change to Nashville’s education system.



Donzell shared his passion for teaching with his beloved church family, at John Wesley United Methodist Church, where he was known as an outstanding Sunday School Teacher, for the Adult Class, for more than twenty years. His service to the Lord was demonstrated by many charitable acts and church leadership roles including: chairperson of the Administration Board, Church Lay Leader; and membership in the United Methodist Men, the Staff Parrish Relations Committee, the Trustee Board, the Finance Committee, and the Education Committee.


Don transitioned peacefully, surrounded by family and friends on October 1, 2014. Cherishing precious memories of him are: a loving and devoted wife, Mary Jones Johnson; five children, Renita (Donnie) Ridley, Mimi (John) Thomas, Ken Jones, Michelle (Mackey) Long, Esq., and Ralph (Chante’) Johnson; six siblings, Osby (Louise) Johnson, Eunice Brooks, Wilma Pitre, Minister Dale (Mickey) Johnson, Roland (Rosetta) Johnson, and Heloyce Kinnermon; eleven grandchildren, Sean Ridley, Tyler Ridley, Angelica Johnson, John Thomas, Jr.  Mackey (Trey) Long III, Carolyn Johnson, Carolyn Thomas, Joy Johnson, Madison Long, Christie Thomas, and Victoria Johnson; and a number of beloved nieces, nephews, cousins, friends and former students.


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