David Johnson recently left his job working with the City of Chattanooga Education, Arts & Culture Department, and he did so in the same way he did his job for years -- quietly and professionally.
I've known and worked with Johnson for almost three decades and consider him a friend, but he's been much more than that to not only me but to the city and anyone who has ever attended an event at the Tivoli Theatre or Memorial Auditorium. He's the guy you went to when you needed to know how something worked.
Johnson officially retired as manager of the city-operated facilities in 2004 after 30 years working there but was enticed back in a different capacity shortly after at the request of Missy Crutchfield, who was named administrator of the department.
"The mayor introduced us, and we started having conversations, and he saw what I wanted to do and I think realized it fit with what he wanted to do, which was connect the dots," she said.
In addition to booking concerts, plays and graduations at the two facilities, the department created several programs aimed at different segments of the community. Johnson had his hand in all of those.
His decision to retire for a second time was to allow himself to fulfill a lifelong dream, he told me several weeks ago. He is now the executive director of Prison Prevention Ministries, a program that targets at-risk youth.
"His resignation letter to me brought tears to my eyes," Crutchfield said.
She said it mentioned how proud he was to have worked on such programs as Remember Your Dreams, an EAC program designed to help young people make their dreams a reality.
"David wrote that, 'I was so moved by that, I realized if not now then never, so I have to remember my dream.'"
David's role in the department over the last six years pretty much depended on the day, the task and the need, Crutchfield said. Like a lot of city departments, hers has had to do more with less.
"He helped fill in the gaps," she said. "He knows every job and did every job. Whether it was operations or manager, I never had to worry. He did it in that very calm David Johnson way.
"His institutional memory is also very important. He knows the background and the history."
Memorial and the Tivoli have both served as launching venues for Broadway plays over the years, with theater companies setting up shop here for several weeks for rehearsals and premieres. That means a good deal of revenue, and they came here because of the facilities, a willingness to work with them and because of Johnson.
"He knows the promoters," Crutchfield said. "We don't have to establish anything. It's already established."
She said she believes that her department will continue to connect the dots, working with Johnson and Prison Prevention Ministries. She also hopes Johnson will continue to head up the Tivoli Auditorium Promotion Association. TAPA is the group that brings in the special concerts and Broadway shows we get every year.
Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...