A beloved neighborhood leader has been called away to serve a permanent mission.
James R. Johnson, Sr., LTC, U.S. Army (ret), who received the Silver Star for gallantry in action while serving in Vietnam and served his King William neighborhood with an equal amount of vigor, passed away on September 21, 2016. His health had declined over the past months, but he lived a full life of adventure and merriment for many of his 85 years.
“The Colonel,” as he was known to many of his neighbors, was a tireless advocate who sought to “do his part” in bettering the San Antonio community. In the late 1990s, he provided great leadership when he served as the King William Association president. During 2001- 2007, Jim represented District 1 on the board of the San Antonio River Authority, where he served to make sure there would be dedicated funding to support the Mission Reach project.
Jim had a real passion for life and companionship, whether with friends, one of his dogs, a tennis partner or foe, or a personal love. Although he sometimes hid behind a rigid demeanor, the tenderness in his eyes usually gave him away. He was an old soul who celebrated the nostalgia of baseball, the military and rustic travel, but had the spirit and heart of a young trooper who approached every mission with purpose, leadership, a vision and the ability to...
coerce (i.e., delegate, in his mind) every task that need addressing…usually, so he wouldn’t have to.
Jim was committed to the King William neighborhood and invested in his home, with the never-ending improvements that would offer just a little better environment to watch TV, smoke cigars, take an outdoor shower, or, most importantly, create a variety of spaces where he could entertain his wonderful family, or variety of visitors – whether 1 or 200 – and make them feel comfortable engaging in decisions about the neighborhood, the county or the world, or dancing to the tune of the many live bands that graced his backyard under the light of a starry night. Jim established many, many long term relationships with friends, neighbors and elected officials, and was a great conversationalist, who liked to muse upon and celebrate life’s offerings – a bitter disappointment, the next river improvement, or a grand “win” for the neighborhood, for which Jim was so invested and passionate.
One of Jim’s early wins for the neighborhood demanded his leadership, along with that of Jose de Lara (who is now again with Jim “fighting the fight” from above), to lead neighborhood advocates to fight institutional expansion/encroachment in the core of residential housing stock. His leadership culminated in one of the hardest fought zoning cases, which required 7:00 a.m. daily strategy meetings for almost a year. The case was eventually won on Cinco de Mayo, which seemed an appropriate day to celebrate a small army of neighborhood defenders.
Fast forward to the present: it is quite ironic that the eventual demolition of one of the institutional structures that Jim fought against was razed to build new residential buildings the week that Jim decided his mission was accomplished and could leave us all…to remember him with a smile, a drink and many a fond memory. - Christine Viña