A born salesman who was a good man and loyal friend; who loved his family, community, the newspaper he worked for and its staff.
That’s how people remembered long time Milwaukee Community Journal account executive Jimmy V. Johnson, who passed away suddenly late Saturday night after a long illness.
Services for Jimmy will be held Tuesday, August 13, at Mt. Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church, 2700 W. Brown St. Public viewing will begin at 10 a.m. followed by the funeral at 12 noon.
The news of his death hit those who knew and worked with him especially hard, practically stunning many who got the news early Sunday morning, hours before the Community Journal held its 43rd anniversary event.
A graduate of Milwaukee James Madison High School, where he was a member of the school’s track team, Jimmy was a ubiquitous figure in the community. You could count on Jimmy to be at major community events such as the MUL Black and White Ball, Juneteenth Day festival, the UNCF Mayor’s Ball, the Fellowship Open, the African Arts Festival and Summerfest.
He was also a mainstay at community meetings, political events and mentoring programs, including the Martin Luther King Elementary School’s Black Male Teach-in.
Jimmy didn’t own a car. The bus was his major mode of transportation to sales meetings and events. If a bus wasn’t available, he’d get a ride from friends or his MCJ family.
Jimmy’s family noted Mayor Tom Barrett’s office called the family to offer condolences. The mayor and Jimmy were often at the same community events and always greeted each other warmly. Also contacting the family was the local 100 Black Men Inc. organization, which Jimmy was also involved with.
Jimmy’s sister, Nikole Johnson, responding to Facebook posts offering condolences to her and the family, said her brother fought a good fight and “stayed sharp” doing it, adding he loved the Milwaukee Community Journal.
Describing Jimmy as a “team player,” MCJ Publisher Patricia O’Flynn Pattillo said he was a “focused soldier” as it related to issues affecting the community. “The Milwaukee Community Journal operates with a small, supportive staff and we pride ourselves in our ability to function as a team or nothing is accomplished.
“Jimmy was always the cheerleader, reminding others on the staff that he was ‘a team player,’ and indeed he was.
“(Jimmy) was insistent upon respect for ‘our community,’” said Pattillo. “Jimmy never hesitated to call a spade a spade; and he would say: ‘fight for what’s right, Mrs. P.’”
Pattillo revealed that as his hospital visits increased, Jimmy turned his client base over to the newspaper’s sales manager, Colleen Newsom, to ensure they were being serviced—a priority for him, even as he battled his health challenges.
“He cared deeply for his community, clients, and family,” Pattillo continued. “He loved being out and about in the community.
“We will miss Jimmy. His dapper style, his love of sports, and his monitoring of elected officials were integral to our MCJ endorsements and reflections. “We’ll miss his positivity, determination, and dedication to his profession. He was, indeed, a team player.”
Members of Pattillo’s staff, Jimmy’s “MCJ family,” recalled their colleague as an energetic, upbeat individual who pursued his work with diligence, dedication, professionalism, and style.
The “style” was what many people noticed first when meeting Jimmy. He was always “dressed to impress—old school style”: pressed suit, tie, button-down monogrammed shirt, shined shoes (of various styles and colors), and his hats—fedoras usually—which were many in number and type. Jimmy rarely…very rarely…came to the office “dressed-down.”
It was his style which first caught the attention of Community Journal Editor Thomas Mitchell when he met Jimmy at the newspaper’s offices 14 years ago. “I’ll never forget how he introduced himself to me,” Mitchell said. “He introduced himself as Jimmy V. Johnson. He said everybody calls him ‘Jimmy’ or ‘Jammin’,’ not James. The ‘V’ is for ‘Vincent,’ and only his mother called him by that name.
“He had a salesman’s personality,” Mitchell continued. “He would tell me how he would approach a potential client and then follow through with it. Jimmy took pride in his job, selling the virtues of the Milwaukee Community Journal and the Black Press to all his clients. He loved his job. I’ll miss him.”
Remembering him as a good coworker and a good friend, MCJ Associate Publisher Mikel Holt said Jimmy was someone who “gave more than he received.” Holt said few people knew of the time and energy Jimmy put into mentoring “our village children.”
“He was a mainstay at the Martin Luther King Elementary School, especially during its ‘Black male teach-in day.’ He was always encouraging other brothers to lead by example.”
Holt said people called him by his nickname “Jammin’” not because he was running the streets, but because he never ran out of energy. “He never owned a car, but everywhere you looked, there was Jammin’ helping out or dropping off the paper he loved. He can’t be replaced.”
The MCJ’s other associate publisher, Robert Thomas, called Jimmy a “natural born salesman,” adding—humorously—that he can imagine Jimmy in Heaven selling to Jesus.
“I hired Jimmy years ago because I knew his father,” Thomas continued. “I knew Jimmy had the ability to do his job well. He was a good man. I miss him so much and love him. He is at peace now in God’s loving arms.”
“Jimmy was like a little brother to me,” said fellow MCJ sales representative Colleen Newsom. “I taught him how to sell and he did a wonderful job. He will be greatly missed and dearly loved. And as I always said about him: ‘Jimmy got soul.’ May he rest in peace.”
MCJ staff photographer Yvonne Kemp took multiple photos of Jimmy over the years since he was often at events Kemp covered for the newspaper. She’d often give him a ride home, talking about issues in the community on the way.
Jimmy was not camera-shy. The walls and door of Jimmy’s office at the MCJ will attest to that. They’re covered with photos of Jimmy at various events around the city and community, posing with national and local celebrities such as Oscar winning actor Louis Gossett, Jr. and WTMJ 4 news anchor Carole Meekins.
“Being a photographer, taking photos of Jimmy was not easy,” Kemp said. “Jimmy liked his pictures as well-dressed as he was. “In other words, he wanted his photos just right.”
Teretha Martin, the MCJ’s executive assistant to the publisher, called Jimmy “a considerate man, who was thoughtful and remembered holidays and birthdays with a gift or a card. “It may have been the salesman in him, but he had a good memory for details,” Martin recalled. “If he was correct about something he would say: ‘I’m positive,’ and usually he would be right. “He had a good sense of humor and kept you laughing when he was around. He will be missed.”