Charles Edward Johnson, 70: Founded the Sweet Auburn Festival

Charles Johnson settled in the Sweet Auburn district when he moved to Atlanta.

Initially, he was unfamiliar with Auburn Avenue's history, how Forbes Magazine once called it the richest Negro street in the world. It didn't take long, though, for the Philadelphia native to embrace its energy and potential.

In the mid-1990s, Mr. Johnson began to oversee the annual Sweet Auburn Springfest, held in May. The festival of music, food and art was an avenue to educate the community about the area and help restore its luster.

"When I originally took over the festival, to some extent it was a big flea market,"  Mr. Johnson said in a profile that appears on the Sweet Auburn website. "What we've done over the years, we've developed various venues of the festival that include arts and literature, business and technology . . . We want people to come to the festival to discover the new stuff. We want them to see what folks are achieving."

Mr. Johnson served as executive producer of  Springfest and founded the Spirit of Sweet Auburn Foundation, which promotes the corridor's vitality. He was president of the Sweet Auburn Business and Improvement Association. Often, he was called the "mayor of Sweet Auburn Avenue."

"Everybody calls him the mayor of Sweet Auburn, but I knew him as a wonderful father," said a daughter, Deneen Johnson Jordan of Atlanta. "He loved his family, and spending time with his grandchildren."

On Oct. 28, Charles Edward Johnson of Stone Mountain died from complications of prostate cancer at his home. He was 70. A memorial will be held at 11 a.m. Friday at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Auburn Avenue. Willie A. Watkins Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

In 1984, Mr. Johnson relocated to Atlanta for a change of pace.  The marketing manager and advertising executive started an e-commerce business called 2nd Office Business Services, Inc., located on Auburn Avenue.

Mr. Johnson embraced and promoted the entire Fourth Ward, not just Sweet Auburn Avenue. He supported development on Edgewood Avenue, Jesse Hill Jr. Drive and beyond.

In a statement, Atlanta District 2 City Councilman Kwanza Hall said Auburn Avenue has lost one of its biggest champions.

"Charles Johnson was a tireless advocate for Sweet Auburn," he wrote. "Even in ill health, he was attending neighborhood meetings and preparing his next festival."

Additional survivors include another daughter, Deborah Johnson Kadle of Fayetteville, N.C.; two sons, Michael Johnson of Philadelphia and Khalil Islam of Atlanta; two sisters, Josephine Smith of Denver, Colo., and Lillian Johnson of Philadelphia; three brothers, Eugene Johnson, William Johnson and George Johnson, all of Philadelphia; 10 grandchildren and one great-grandchild.

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