Augusta remembers a longtime friend
The Augusta community is remembering an Augusta son and longtime friend.
Everett Johnson, 78, passed away on July 22, in Tucson, Ariz., where he and his wife Marsha, went to live with their son Will and his family. Johnson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease a few years ago.
He was a proud Augusta High School graduate of 1954 and following high school graduation, he served four years in the U.S. Navy. He was stationed on Kwajalein Island in the Pacific, served as a radar man in VP-28 Patrol Squadron. He witnessed at least four atomic bomb blasts, exposing him to ionizing radiation, and he joined the ranks of the Atomic veterans.
Johnson graduated from the University of Kansas with a PhD in electrical engineering in 1963. He taught at KU, McNeese State University and Wichita State University. He retired from WSU in 2000 as the chair of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department.
That is when his next career began.
He served on the Augusta City Council from 1976 until 1979. He then served on the Augusta Board of Education from 1979 to 1983, and was a member of the Kansas State Board of Education from 1998 to 2000.
His public service continued when he was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives, District 77, in 2002. He served two terms and chose not to run again due to the diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease.
Longtime friend Lewis Simmons stayed in touch with Johnson and spoke to him as recently as two weeks before his passing.
“I knew Everett when he was in the service and I was blessed with selling them their first house in Augusta. Everett loved the Lord, he loved Augusta, and he loved the First Baptist Church,” Simmons continued. “He could be outspoken and vocal when he needed to be - you always knew where he stood - but when needed, he was like still waters. He was a good man and he served this community very well.”
Simmons also shared that his friends, Everett and Marsha, were “very much in love. They were good people, active in the church and supported all the youth programs.”
While serving District 77 in Topeka, Johnson was instrumental in several important bills. One of his last projects was extremely important to many people.
He was approached in 2003 by local veterans working toward obtaining recognition for the Atomic Veterans. He worked hard in getting a resolution adopted to recognize and honor Kansas Atomic Veterans, which led to Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius presenting a Certificate of Recognition to each known Atomic Veteran from Kansas. Kansas was the only state that had recognized the important group of veterans.
Led by Johnson’s work, Kansas State Representatives David Crum of Augusta and Ed Trimmer of Winfield, co-sponsored legislation to name a portion of Highway 400 in honor of the Atomic Veterans. The Kansas Legislature adopted it and Sebelius signed it into law in April of 2008. The stretch of highway begins in Augusta and extends to the eastern edge of Butler County.
Johnson, along with other Atomic Veterans, were honored at a ceremony, held in Leon when the official signs were erected on the highway on May 22, 2009. He stood proudly with the other veterans as they were photographed with the new sign.
When interviewed about his work on behalf of all Atomic Veterans, Johnson explained, “It’s our mission to let everyone know who we are. The Atomic Veteran must not be forgotten.”
Johnson’s work and support led to the Kansas Legislature adopting resolution HCR 5018 in 2007, which encouraged the President and the United States Congress to honor the nation’s Atomic Veterans with a special Atomic Veterans Service Medal. Sadly, the measure has still not passed in the U.S. Congress. Currently, HR 4778, the bipartisan “Atomic Veterans Service Medal Act” is waiting to be passed.
Sadly, now, Johnson joins the ranks of the 75 + percent of the Atomic Veterans who have passed away, never having received the recognition they deserve.
Everett Johnson leaves his wife Marsha; a son, Will and wife Jennifer, and a daughter, Cathy and husband Mike O’Gorman. They have two granddaughters.
A celebration of his life will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Augusta First Baptist Church.
(See page 4 in today’s edition for David Crum’s tribute to Johnson).
Belinda Larsen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org