Ann and Ellis Johnson had parents who instilled in them the importance of using their talents to benefit others, and throughout their lives, they’ve volunteered their time and talents to benefit the arts and the children of Augusta.
On Thursday, the couple will receive the George and Dorothy Walton Award from AP Wealth Management at a ceremony at Enterprise Mill. The award, in its second year, recognizes a married couple who has “contributed outstanding community service,” according to a news release.
“It takes us aback, and we think of how humbling it is to be recognized for doing something you’ve enjoyed doing all your life,” said Ellis Johnson, who retired as the director of counseling services at Aiken Technical College.
The Johnsons have been married for 48 years, and together they’ve championed causes important to them. They both have a love of music and the arts.
Ellis Johnson served as the director of the Augusta Chorale for two decades, watching the membership grow from 12 to 75 singers. During his tenure, the group performed at Charleston’s Spoleto Festival five times. Ann Johnson sang with the group and formed the Friends of the Augusta Chorale, serving as its first president.
He is a past president of the Greater Augusta Arts Council, and she has served on the Morris Museum of Art’s board of directors and volunteered as a docent.
They’ve worked closely with children as mentors.
He was part of the group 100 Black Men of Augusta and mentored young adults without father figures.
“There was one kid who never knew his father. I helped him through high school to get into college and transition into a successful career in the military,” he said.
She taught sewing and mentored a group of girls at their church.
Scholarship and education are important to the Johnsons.
She retired from Paine College, where she served as the executive assistant to the president. Her mother was a domestic worker. Johnson said the congregation at Warren Baptist Church embraced her family when she was a child and provided a scholarship that helped her.
She used her fashion design skills to help raise money for the Paine College United Negro College Fund. She produced fashion shows which over the course of several years raised between $40,000 and $50,000.
Children and music came together through the Jessye Norman School of the Arts, where he served on the board of directors and organized the Friends of the Jessye Norman School of the Arts. She has been a member of the group and organized a fundraiser called Purses for Purpose. Designer purses and purses owned by celebrities such as Norman have been part of the fundraiser. The next Purses for Purpose will be March 15.
In September 2015, the art gallery at the Jessye Norman School was named in honor of the couple.
“They are an inspiration for our entire community and clearly represent something larger than themselves in all they do,” said a statement on the Jessye Norman School website.
Ellis Johnson said that the key to their success is not in themselves.
“The success of all of our involvement and activity has been because of the people who supported us,” he said.