Vernon Elso Johnson

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  • "Vernon was a wonderfully creative man. I enjoyed our..."
    - Walter Durst
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BERKELEY, Calif. Vernon Elso Johnson, a long time resident of Tuscaloosa, born in Baskin, Louisiana on Nov. 19, 1921, passed away on Nov. 14, 2010, in Berkeley, California, surrounded by his loving family, after a brief hospitalization.

A holder of five battle stars from World War II, Vernon returned from the war to Nashville, Tennessee, where he attended college and graduate school at Vanderbilt University. Before earning his Ph.D. in world literature from Peabody College of Vanderbilt, he performed for a time as a professional actor in New York City. He was a talented and dynamic professor of theater and literature, and continued to direct and act in university and community theater productions for most of his life including the Tuscaloosa Community Theatre and the University of Alabama Theatre Department. He was engaged in many of the social causes of his time, and designed one of the first college courses in African-American literature. He was the author and editor of many academic books and was a major contributor to the Thompson-Gale online Shakespeare project. His manuscript on criticism of Othello and race was completed only days before his death.

Vernon is survived by Claudia Durst Johnson, his wife of 54 years; and by his devoted family, his daughters, Catherine West Johnson of Berkeley, California and Claudia Lillian Johnson of Scotia, New York; grandchildren, Caroline West Pearson, Nathaniel Durst George, and Genevieve West Pearson; and his brother, William Ostell Johnson of Franklin, Tennessee. Vernon enjoyed close and loving relationships with his sons-in-law, Roger Pearson and Kenneth George, and an extended network of family and friends, including his beloved nieces and nephews.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations in Vernon's memory to the Fannie Battle Day Home,, a non-profit day care center for low income youth.
Published in Tuscaloosa News on Nov. 21, 2010
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