Published in Florence Times Daily on March 22, 2011
Shoals Mayor Billy T. Johnson died Sunday, March 20, 2011, at Helen Keller
He was 77.
Visitation will be noon-2 p.m. Tuesday, March 22, at Woodward Avenue Baptist
Church. The funeral will be at 2 p.m. at the church, with the Rev. Rob
Paul officiating. A graveside service will follow.
Bill and his wife, Alma Ruth Yarbrough Johnson, would have celebrated
their 50th wedding anniversary April 20. He also is survived by his son
and daughter-in-law, Jeffrey Thomas and Andrea Schulte Johnson; granddaughters,
Olivia Hope Johnson and Mallory Grace Johnson; sisters, Janice Dewberry
and Eudell Fuller; and nieces, Kathy Grigsby and Debbie Barnett.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Johnny Thomas and Pearl Myrick
Johnson; brother, Charles L. Johnson; and nephew, Jim Dewberry.
Pallbearers will be Bill Marthaler, Charles Gargis, Ben Clifton, John
Conn, Farrell Southern, Bob Ashley, Homer Rutledge, Eric Moore, Jimmy
McDonald and Stan Henderson.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to St. Jude Children's
Research Hospital or the Salvation Army.
Bill, who was inducted into the Lauderdale County Sports Hall of Fame
in 2009, grew up in the Oakland area. He graduated from Central High School,
where he played second base and shortstop for the baseball team.
After graduation, he served in the U.S. Army and played service baseball
at Fort Carson, Colo. One of his teammates was Billy Martin, of New York
Once his Army career was complete, Bill played semi-pro ball in Lauderdale
County, earning a reputation as one of the best pitchers in Alabama. The
Brooklyn Dodgers signed him to a pro contract in 1957, making him the
first player from the Shoals to sign a pro contract. Though the Dodgers
organization signed him as a pitcher, he was sent in to pinch hit by mistake
and belted the first pitch off the left field wall.
Bill played his first season in the minor leagues with the Bluefield Dodgers,
who won the league pennant that year. At spring training for the Dodgers,
he played with Duke Snider, Roy Campanella and other well-known players.
An off-the-field ankle injury ended his professional career.
Bill worked with Garnet Electric and other supply houses until he and
his brother-in-law, Adrian Yarbrough, founded Shoals Electric in 1972.
He retired in the early 1990s.
Bill served as a Muscle Shoals city commissioner from 1979 until 1984,
then as mayor from 1984-1988.
He also served on the board of directors for First Metro Bank and the
North Alabama Gas District. He also was an avid golfer, having played
the game for more than 40 years. During that time, he had three holes-in-one.
Just three weeks ago, he shot his age with a 78.
Bill was a member of Woodward Avenue Baptist Church, Muscle Shoals.
Colbert Memorial Chapel is assisting the family.