First African-American to serve parish council honored

Curtis Johnson’s friends and family packed the council meeting Monday night to remember him

Before the regular minutes of the evening began during Monday’s parish council meeting, the memory of Curtis T. Johnson, Sr. was colorfully recalled amid a packed room. The normally sparsely attended council meeting was packed with friends and family for the tribute, showing just how many lives Mr. Johnson touched.

A video presentation showed pictures of him through the years, while a multitude eulogized his life.

“Of all of the people I served with, Curtis was the most unique individual,” said Councilman Barry Minnich, admiring his strong will and conviction even when they didn’t agree.

A product of segregated America, Johnson was not stopped by racial barriers. Graduating from Booker T. Washington High School in New Orleans, he pursued a baseball career in the Negro Leagues, playing in the New York Yankees farm system. Johnson had his dream of playing professional baseball interrupted by serving the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He also attended Grambling Unversity.

In the late 1970s, Johnson began his public service in St. Charles Parish on the police jury. Later, he was elected to the parish council.

“Curtis was a gentle giant. He cared deeply and sincerely about people,” said Minnich.

“He was proud to be a councilman and took his job very seriously,” said Councilman Duhe. Johnson was described by colleagues and friends as a dynamic man that towered in parish politics and tackled many issues during his tenure, bringing tears of sadness and joy to many in attendance.

During the extended remembrance, council members fondly recalled Johnson. Reading on behalf of Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Councilwoman April Black honored him as the first African-American to serve on the police jury and then the parish council in St. Charles Parish.

“Curtis was a remarkable person,” said President Laque. “He found a way to make things happen.”

A plaque was unveiled and dedicated during the service. Even Mr. Johnson was able be there through old video footage. “St. Charles Parish is most beautiful place in world. I’ve had many chances to leave, and I would not give it up for anything,” said Johnson in an archived video piece. This statement was engraved on the plaque and will be prominently featured at the courthouse in Hahnville.


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