Alvin S. Johnson, longtime Sandy Springs leader and resident dies at 81

Johnson helped organize Sandy Springs’ first Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.

Credit: Photo courtesy

Credit: Photo courtesy

A longtime Sandy Springs resident, mentor and community leader who served three terms on a city board died last week.

Alvin S. Johnson was modest about his many accomplishments and direct about his goal to help Sandy Springs become an inclusive and leading city in Georgia, friends and family said.

“He loved Sandy Springs and he just wanted the city to be one of the up-and-coming cities in Georgia,” Johnson’s wife Vera said. “Being on the boards, that was his way of staying involved. That was his main goal that we had a presence.”

Johnson died unexpectedly on June 7 at the age of 81.

In addition to his wife, Vera, he is survived by three children, four grandchildren and three great grandchildren.

For 10 years, Johnson served on the Sandy Springs Board of Appeals — which decides on requests for variances from city zoning regulations — before resigning last December with a city proclamation issued in his honor.

Sandy Springs Planning and Zoning Manager Michele McIntosh Ross read the proclamation during his funeral service Sunday at Roswell Funeral Home.

Credit: Photo Courtesy Sandy Springs

Credit: Photo Courtesy Sandy Springs

Johnson was a guiding light for leaders in the community who needed a listening ear or direction, those who knew him said.

When Sandy Springs was on the brink of becoming an incorporated city in 2005, Johnson kept Pastor Henry Bush and members of the small Sharon Community Church informed on the movement, Bush said during the funeral service.

Councilwoman Melody Kelley, who spoke at the funeral service Sunday, said Johnson was a mentor. She recalled seeking his advice before introducing to the City Council the idea of a paid Juneteenth holiday for employees.

“One of the things I was concerned about was timing. Is it too soon? Is Sandy Springs not ready (for such a holiday)?” Kelley told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He had a pulse on (city government). He assured me that the time was right and that it was a worthy cause to advocate for.”

The City Council approved adding a floating paid holiday for employees who want to celebrate Juneteenth, and Sandy Springs will host its second annual Juneteenth event at its City Hall campus on Sunday.

Johnson moved to Sandy Springs in 2005. The following year, Johnson, former City Councilwoman Dianne Fries and former Atlanta official Oz Hill organized Sandy Springs’ first Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration.

“I called Alvin a lot for advice on things,” Fries said. “He was a true knowledgeable citizen that I could always count on. He had a heart of gold.”

Johnson was certified in theology by the Interdenominational Theological Seminary.

A native of the Bronx borough of New York, he grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina, attending segregated public school, according to his obituary. After majoring in psychology and German at North Carolina Central University, he completed a master’s degree in business administration at Fordham University.

The scholar later served as an adjunct professor at Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations, as well as at Johns Hopkins University Graduate School of Business, his obituary says.

In business, Johnson built a career working in human resources management in both the corporate and public sectors including Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools in North Carolina and Hampton City Schools in Virginia. He later became a hiring consultant for school systems.

“Rarely did you hear Alvin talk about the amazing jobs he held or the accomplishments during his tenure at various companies, where most often he was the first Black person to hold the position,” his obituary reads.

Kelley said that in those circumstances, Johnson excelled. He knew how to dispel notions that he would fill a token role.

“That’s his personal impact,” the councilwoman said.