Johnnie Jackson, a man who never feared speaking his mind, could turn a golf outing into a prayer meeting, friends said Wednesday as a packed church grappled with the suddenness of his death.
Mr. Jackson, a Richmond County school trustee, was buried at Southview Cemetery after funeral services attended by nearly 1,000 people at Tabernacle Baptist Church. The 63-year-old, who adhered to a strict diet and exercise regimen, died of a heart attack Jan. 2.
"The Bible says be ready, for you know not the time nor the hour. We were shocked when we understood the hour for Mr. Jackson had come," said Adna Stein, school board president.
Among those at the funeral were the Richmond County school board, Superintendent Charles Larke and other school officials, Fort Gordon Garrison Commander Thom Tuckey, state lawmakers, Augusta commissioners, and hundreds of family, friends and educators.
As the flag-draped coffin rested at the front of the church, surrounded by flowers and one football-shaped balloon, mourners recalled Mr. Jackson's 30 years as a teacher and coach at Lucy C. Laney High School and his three years as a school trustee. They also spoke of his devotion to Tabernacle and his steadfast religious beliefs.
"Mr. Jackson knew who he was, and whose he was," said Alfred Reed, principal of Milledge Elementary School and a Sunday school classmate. "Mr. Jackson had the ability to look at things critically and analytically and still be a Christian."
But most of all, Mr. Jackson was simply one of the good guys, said the Rev. Otis B. Moss III, pastor at Tabernacle.
"There are plenty of persons that occupy space in this particular state of being we call living," he said. "... But that does not entitle them to the definition of a man. Or a good man. Johnnie Jackson was a good man."
On his last Sunday, Mr. Jackson urged his Sunday school class to do a better job of recruiting new members and supporting the church, Mr. Reed said. Mr. Reed urged the crowd to keep alive Mr. Jackson's principles and ideals.
Dr. Larke, who attends Tabernacle, marveled at the size of the crowd attending the funeral.
"The Rev. Hamilton's was the only one I remember that was larger than this one -- and he was pastor of the church," Dr. Larke said, referring to the Rev. C.S. Hamilton, a longtime city council member who died last year.