Former Seminole Mayor Jimmy Johnson Dies, Aged 74
Jimmy Johnson served as Seminole’s mayor from 2006 to 2012.
By ANNE LINDBERG, TB Reporter
Former Seminole Mayor James “Jimmy” Johnson, the man who was always smiling, died Saturday (July 15, 2017) at Suncoast Hospice Woodside in Pinellas Park. He was 74.
Mr. Johnson was known for his community service as much as for his cheerful demeanor. He served on the Seminole City Council as council member, vice mayor and mayor. He earned the titles of “Mr. Seminole” and “Boss of the Year.” He also earned the Seminole Chamber of Commerce’s Merit Award.
“He was just a wonderful person. Bigger than life,” said Gretchen Cain, chief of operations at the Seminole Chamber of Commerce, who worked with Mr. Johnson for 11 years.
“He will be missed,” Cain said. “He touched so many lives. Everybody had a Jimmy story.”
Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters said, “Jimmy Johnson was a proud family man, a dedicated civic leader, and a big fan of the Bucs, Rays and USF Bulls.”
Mr. Johnson was born and raised in Fayetteville, NC. After graduation from high school he moved to Florida and worked for a short time in his uncle’s gas station in Sanford.
Soon after that he moved to the Tampa Bay area to attend the University of South Florida where he earned a degree in personnel management and was a member of the first graduating class. After leaving USF, he joined the U.S. Air Force where he worked as a cryptologist during the Vietnam War
After his discharge from the Air Force, he went to work for the Kmart Corp. and traveled extensively around the southeast. He was relocated to Seminole in 1980 and never left.
He immediately became active in the Seminole community and was known for his enthusiasm and jovial spirit, Cain said. A big smile became his trademark and he was known as a person who would get things done.
Mr. Johnson would tell people that he truly became a Seminole resident in 2000 when the city annexed his section of the county. That same year, he was appointed executive director of the Seminole Chamber, a position he held for 11 years.
He was elected to the Seminole City Council in 2003. Mr. Johnson was chosen vice mayor in 2004 and became interim mayor in 2006 to fill out the term of Dottie Reeder who had resigned to run for the State House. Mr. Johnson was elected mayor in 2007 and served until his resigned because of health reasons in 2012.
Soon after his election as mayor, Mr. Johnson developed a bad cough. Doctors diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, a progressive disease that causes scarring of the lungs and has no cure.
Mr. Johnson told a reporter he had never heard of the disease until he was diagnosed with it. After that, he willingly shared his experiences, which included a lung transplant in 2008, to bring awareness of the disease to the public.
Throughout, he maintained his trademark cheerful outlook.
Cain said that he often talked about maintaining a positive attitude and living in the moment.
“He practiced what he preached,” she said. “He tried to live in the moment. He enjoyed bringing happiness to other people.”
Mr. Johnson retired from his position at the Seminole Chamber in 2011 and from the mayor’s office in 2012.
“I think he did a lot for the community,” Cain said. “It was a pleasure working with him. … It was all good. I’ll really miss him.”
Mr. Johnson was predeceased by his youngest daughter, Heather Nicole Johnson. He is survived by his oldest daughter, Paige Michael, grandson, Chase; his sisters, Shelia, Betty and Ray, along with many nieces and nephews.
A service will be held at the First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks, 12685 Ulmerton Road, Largo, on Friday, July 21, 2017. Visitation will be from 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. with the memorial service beginning at 11 a.m.
Memorial donations may be made in Mr. Johnson’s name to One Breath at a Time, OBAAT.org.
Main photo courtesy of the city of Seminole. In-story photo courtesy of R. Lee Williams.
Arrangements are being handled by R. Lee Williams Funeral Home and Crematory, St. Petersburg (727) 527-1177, or go to rlwilliams.com.
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