Harlem High students honor classmate who died

Harlem High senior Haley Busby, 18, creates a banner Wednesday to honor classmate Johnny Hartman, who died Tuesday in a car crash.
Wednesday, May 9, 2012 11:39 AM
Last updated 8:30 PM
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Many at Harlem High School abandoned the Bulldogs’ red and black in favor of the University of Florida’s signature blue and orange as they mourned a classmate Wednesday.

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Johnny Hartman, who played football and was on the Homecoming Court at Harlem High School, died Tuesday in a car crash.  SPECIAL
Johnny Hartman, who played football and was on the Homecoming Court at Harlem High School, died Tuesday in a car crash.

Harlem High senior Johnny Hartman died Tuesday in a single-car crash in Appling. Authorities say the 18-year-old ran off Scotts Ferry Road, over-corrected, then flipped his Toyota 4Runner several times before hitting a tree.

The wreck occurred about 3 p.m., and Columbia County Deputy Coroner Bonnie Holloway said Hartman died about seven hours later at Medical College of Georgia Hospital of head trauma.

Knowing Hartman was an avid fan of the University of Florida, Harlem students wore the Gators’ colors Wednesday.

“He was just such a great young man,” said Hartman’s basketball coach Kim Chambers, who wore an orange T-shirt and a khaki cap bearing the Gators logo. “He was the kind of kid you’d want your daughter to date.”

Hartman played basketball, football and tennis, but what made Hartman special, Chambers said, was his work ethic.

“That’s why I gave him the coach’s award (this past season),” he said. “He always gave it his all. He didn’t seek out any glory. He just did what he could to help his team win.”

Chambers’ teammates signed a basketball Wednesday in honor of Hartman and intend to give it to his parents, the Rev. Steve Hartman, of Kiokee Baptist Church, and his wife, Susan.

“God got a new angel (Tuesday),” Chambers said of the teen he described as a strong Christian.

Hartman’s death came 11 days before his high school graduation. He became the area’s second high school senior to die in a single-car crash in three days. Burke County High School football player Denzell Warthen was ejected from his vehicle and killed in an early-morning accident near Midville on Saturday.

Several of Hartman’s classmates wrote notes to him on a large orange banner in the school’s commons area. They plan to take the banner with them to their graduation ceremony May 19.

Among the first to sign the banner was basketball and soccer star Jade Cotton.

The 18-year-old said she had known Hartman since the seventh grade, but became good friends with him this school year as they sat next to each other in a class.

“When I first heard about (the crash), I was really worried,” Cotton said as she fought tears. “Later, when I found out he died, I just broke down and cried.

“He had just raised the money to go on our senior trip to Panama City (Fla.). We were all so happy he was going to go.”

On Wednesday, school system psychologists were on hand as school counselors tried to help students and teachers manage their grief.

“All the kids loved him, but so did all his teachers,” said Harlem Principal Dietmar Perez. “He was a fabulous young man.”

Hartman was named the school’s prom king last month.

“He was so good to everybody. I don’t think there was anybody who didn’t like him,” said school safety officer Mike Leverett. “Even the bad kids liked him.”

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Just My Opinion
Just My Opinion 05/09/12 - 12:08 pm
I'm so very sorry. What a

I'm so very sorry. What a tragic way for this young man to die. I pray for his family and friends. I hope the way he lived his life and the way in which he passed will make a profound impact on those who knew him.

my.voice 05/09/12 - 12:48 pm
You know, thinking back, I

You know, thinking back, I don't recall one classmate who died when I was in school in the 80's. It's epidemic now in this generation. I am GLAD I am not a teenager in this age.

This is a horrible end to a life that was really just beginning. Stay safe kids.

rocketserve 05/09/12 - 01:54 pm
Sad day...

Yes this is a sad day for this family and classmates. But I have to disagree with my.voice about this being an epidemic. I did graduate in the 80's and I know of several deaths and serious accidents just involving my classmates (I also went to Harlem) Now though with instant news cycles, we hear more about it and as adults we read the news. As a teenager, I didn't read the newspaper too much to keep up with what happened at other schools.

wise ole man
wise ole man 05/09/12 - 02:10 pm
May his memory make his

May his memory make his friends the type of person he was- God bless his parents and his friends. Thank you Mr. Perez for allowing these kids the ability to mourn Jonathan's life in the place where most of them knew him.

RogueKnight 05/10/12 - 08:52 am
Condolences to the Hartman, HHS and Kiokee Baptist families...

...who have lost a wonderful son and fine young man. Rev. Steve Hartman conducted my mother in law's funeral and I have a niece and nephew at HHS. This is heart breaking. It's hard to understand why things like this happen to good people like this, but the consolation is that Johnny is resting in the arms of Jesus.

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