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John Johns


John Johns Obituary
John Edwin Johns, 85, of 7 Mallard Court, Greenville, president of Furman University from 1976 to 1994, died Thursday, September 27.

Born in Ozark, Ala., Dr. Johns grew up in Florida and was the son of the late Thomas Maxwell Johns, longtime director of the Florida Baptist Children's Home, and the late Susan Elizabeth Spires Johns. Dr. Johns served in the Army Air Corps during World War II and flew 35 combat missions in the European Theatre aboard B-17 aircraft. He received a number of military honors, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters.

Following military service, Dr. Johns returned to college at Furman and graduated cum laude in 1947 with a degree in history. He was named the outstanding male graduate. He went on to earn his master's and Ph.D. degrees in history from the University of North Carolina.

He began his academic career at Stetson University in DeLand, Fla., in 1948, and during almost 30 years at the school served as chair of the Department of History and Political Science, business manager, and vice president for finance before becoming president in 1970. He served as president of Stetson for six years before being named the ninth president of Furman in May 1976.

During his presidency Furman conducted two highly successful capital campaigns that combined to raise more than $115 million; the university's endowment grew tenfold; the campus made great strides in its use and acquisition of technology; the faculty and the student body grew stronger and more diverse; and the issue of the university's governance was settled. In 1986, a study sponsored by the Exxon Education Foundation named Dr. Johns one of the nation's 100 most effective college presidents.

Among his professional activities, Dr. Johns served as president of the Southern University Conference, president of the Florida Historical Society, chair of the South Carolina Tuition Grants Commission, and chair of the Southern Baptist Education Commission. He served on many corporate and civic boards in Greenville, among them The First Savings Bank, Peace Center for the Performing Arts, Greenville County Museum of Art, Metropolitan Arts Council, Greater Greenville Chamber of Commerce and the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts and Humanities.

An Eagle Scout and recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award, he was also presented the Good Shepherd Emblem Award by the Association of Baptists for Scouting. He was a 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, a director of the Scottish Rite Foundation of South Carolina, Inc., and a member of the Royal Order of Scotland. He was a Rotarian and past district governor of Rotary International, District 699.

Dr. Johns was the author of a book, Florida During the Civil War, and a number of scholarly articles. He held honorary degrees from Rollins College, William Jewell College, Limestone, Stetson and Furman, and was a recipient of the Order of the Palmetto and the Order of the Silver Crescent from the state of South Carolina. In 2001 he received the Whitney M. Young, Jr., Award from the Urban League of Upstate South Carolina for his humanitarian efforts and contributions to the Greenville community.

He was a member of First Baptist Church of Greenville.

He is survived by his wife of 60 years, Martha Mauney Johns; three sons, John Edwin Johns, Jr., and wife Tracey, of Greer; Steven Maxwell Johns and wife Norine, of Simpsonville; and Marcus Mauney Johns of Lilburn, Ga.; and three grandchildren, Evan Thomas Johns, William Mauney Johns and Lauren Ashley Johns.

Funeral services will be at 2 p.m., Monday, October 1, at the Charles Ezra Daniel Memorial Chapel at Furman, with Drs. James M. Pitts and Jeffery S. Rogers presiding. Burial will follow in Springwood Cemetery with full military honors. The family will receive friends following the burial at White Oaks, 1209 Roe Ford Road, Greenville, SC.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Furman University, First Baptist Church of Greenville, or to the charity of one's choice.

The Mackey Mortuary, Century Drive.

Published in The Greenville News on Sept. 28, 2007
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