Northwestern State University’s second Living Library event will examine the life and legacy of the late Ben D. Johnson (1910-2005), who was for several decades, a business leader, mentor and advocate in Natchitoches’s African American community. The panel discussion will begin at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 20 in the Ora G. Williams Digital Media Center (NSU TV Studio), Kyser Hall Room 142. Admission is free and open to the public.
Johnson was born in Campti, one of 10 children, and in the 1930s launched a successful funeral home business that became one of the most prominent minority business systems in Louisiana. He was involved in government, civic affairs, youth development and many philanthropic endeavors.
Johnson received many honors throughout a lifetime of service. He was named an honorary Louisiana state senator and awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters from Northwestern State University, where he established the Ben D. Johnson Endowed Professorship in Business. He received the NAACP humanitarian services award was lauded by U.S. President Bill Clinton and South African President Nelson Mandela.
Today, his work lives on through initiatives coordinated by the Ben D. Johnson Education Center, the Legacy Youth Workforce Development Program and the Legacy Café.
Joining the panel to discuss Johnson’s legacy will be his niece Claire Prymus, State Rep. Kenny Cox, Coushatta Mayor Johnny Cox, Edward Ward Jr. and Dr. Marcus Jones. Each will speak and answer questions about Johnson, his impact on their lives and the large footprint Johnson left in the community.
“Ben Johnson: A Natchitoches Legacy” will last about 90 minutes and is being presented by NSU’s Eugene P. Watson Library. The concept of a living library encourages individuals to share their experiences on a specific topic so that listeners get a first-hand account of what the person saw or lived through. The panels are recorded and become part of the collection that researchers can use to supplement books, journals and other traditional resources. The living library concept encourages cross-curriculum study and experiential learning.
“Ben Johnson’s lasting impact and achievements on the Natchitoches community deserves to be recognized,” said Deborah Huntington, head of Collection Development and Cataloging. “Black History Month is an ideal time to honor the legacy of Ben Johnson.”